Life of Christ Q & A

Over the past year, I have been working on a project called the CU Chapel Online.  The CU Chapel Online is a first-of-its-kind chapel experience for online students.  It is a virtual chapel that online student can virtually enter and receive prayer, Bible study opportunities, and hear sermons from our live chapel services.

One of the Bible study elements is a series of videos called “The Life of Christ Q & A.”  In these short, 4 minute or less videos, I basically present an attribute, characteristic, or commonly held question about Jesus Christ and his ministry.  Eleven of these segments have been filmed with more in production.

I thought I might share these here as a way to further present the Gospel message of Jesus Christ with anyone who has questions about Jesus.

Please remember these videos are not professionally-created or masterfully-done.  I have a production team of two: myself and my work-study Brad Nally.  Thanks Brad for your help in making this project possible.

Click the link to go to vimeo.com and watch.

Life of Christ Q&A – CU Chapel Online
1.  The Preexistent Christ
2.  God the Son
3.  Messiah Foretold
4.  Born of a Virgin
5. Lineage of David
6.  A Man from Nazareth
7.  Introduced by John
8.  Tempted in the Wilderness
9.  Preacher and Teacher
10. Miracle Worker
11. Forgiver of Sins

Grind It Till You Find It

This was not my car.  My car was not nearly this nice. But the same make and model.

This was not my car. My car was not nearly this nice. But the same make and model.

My first car was a black, 2-door, 5-speed 1987 Renault Alliance.  A vintage custom-built French-made automovile…complete with accompanying beret (not really). It was basically a cardboard box on four wheels, but I loved it with all my heart.

The only problem was that the car was a manual and I didn’t know how to drive a straight shift.

So my father set about teaching me how to drive a stick.  I learned a wonderful phrase in those lessons that still rings true today:

“Grind It Till You Find It.”

What he meant was as I was trying to change gears between 2nd and 3rd and couldn’t seem to find the right spot, I needed to grind the transmission until I found the gear.  It would make the car rev up and sound like it was screeching in agony.

In ministry, and particularly in church-based ministry, there are seasons when you have to grind it until you find it.  You get stuck between gears and the ministry seems to be screeching in agony.  Transitioning between one speed to the next can cause everyone to get all out of sorts.  But don’t fret.  Keep the clutch pressed down and find that gear.  Its out there, it might be elusive at the moment, but it is out there.

(…warning honesty alert…)  I am currently serving a church as transitional pastor where we, together, have had to grind it until we found it.

The beginning of our time together was not the best.  It was not terrible, but definitely not smooth sailing.  It was a tough transition on them and a tough transition on me.  There were a few Sundays and business meetings where things were not easy and the church was definitely screeching in agony.

But we had to grind through it.  We had to try and find our gear together, so we could move forward and accelerate smoothly. To the glory of God, over the past three months we have finally found that rhythm.  We found the next gear.

So be encouraged if you are leading a ministry and its seems like a grind.  Be faithful.  Be of good courage.  Be consistent in the Lord and find strength through His Spirit.  Sometimes you just have to grind it until you find it.

Have hope, the gear will come.  It will come and the ministry will smooth out.  Until it is time to shift again.

How to Get More Out of the Preached Word of God

sermon preaching

Christian believers sitting in church hear a lot of sermons.  Sermons preached from the Old and New Testaments.  Sermons preached through exposition and sermons preached on topics.  Special sermons for holidays, weddings, ordinations, and during revival meetings.

My personal conviction is that growing believers in Christ should also be ingesting the Word through personal Bible study, online videos, podcasts, CDs, books, or from radio broadcasts.  All maturing believers want to grow in the Word of God and the teaching/preaching ministry is one of the primary spiritual disciplines where this growth takes place.

Yet many believers view preaching as an observational act.  They take the posture of politely and respectfully listening, but not doing much of anything else.  They would all agree that they are there to learn and be challenged in the Word, but in actuality, they are very inactive in the learning process, very passive in the spiritual discipline, and very unengaged while the preacher is preaching.

They leave saying, “I really didn’t get much out of that message.”  While it might be true, it could be avoided.

So how can maturing Christ-followers get more out of the preached Word of God?  How can those in the pews become more intentionally involved, feasting upon the spoken Word, engaging the message actively rather than passively?

Here are some ideas on what you can do to get more out of the sermon?  (These are not new or highly innovative, however, I promise they will help.)

1. Read the passage ahead of time.  Your pastor may send out a weekly email or post something on social media with the sermon text, look it up and read it.  Or when you arrive, find sermon text in the bulletin and read it.  If you have to email your pastor and ask for a preaching plan with sermon texts for the whole month.

Do whatever it takes to get that passage in your mind before the service starts.  If you do, you will notice the worship songs point to the key themes of the passage, maybe even the whole direction of the service.  Plus when the pastor reads the text in the sermon, it will be at least your second time going through it.  The flow, the words, the context will make much more sense to you when you’ve done your homework ahead of time.

2.  Pray before the preaching time starts.  Our church has an offertory time before the sermon, which is usually just the piano playing.  I spend this time to specifically ask the Holy Spirit of God to speak to my heart during the message.

Try to carve out a moment of spiritual space where you directly, humbly, ask God Almighty to speak to your heart.  We call that the “prayer of illumination.”  To be certain, God always desires to speak to His people, but we must tune our hearts and spiritual ears toward Him to hear as He speaks.

3. Open your own Bible and study along.  This seems like a no-brainer, but I am seeing less and less people bring their Bibles to church.  Even less open them during the sermon and keep them open the whole time – start to finish.

This has to be the most passive, unengaged Christian in the pew (and probably the most spiritually immature).  If you come to hear the preached Word of God and leave your Bible at home, you are telling God His Word is not valuable enough to carry a few steps to the car and into the building.

You can’t drive your car without the keys.  You don’t go to the grocery without your wallet.  You don’t go to preaching without your Bible. God’s Word is what is inspired and authoritative, not the preacher and his sermon.  Open it.  Use it.  Engage with it.  Underline, circle, mark it up.  It makes all the difference in the world.

4. Take notes during the message.  Taking notes during the sermon has been around for years, but now with all the technology and visual support, I am seeing less and less people actually bring a journal with them to worship.  They are leaning on sermon notes, bulletin inserts, and the Scripture being shown on-screen.  As a preacher, I provide all those support tools, but as a hearer, I take notes in a journal.

I journal during the sermon because in writing my own thoughts, my own understandings, my own questions, I hear the voice of God more clearly.  I hear what God is saying directly to me, which might be very different than what the preacher is saying to others.

Journaling has other benefits as well.  Later, I can go back and reflect on what God was saying to me months, maybe even years ago.  Secondly, I stay far more engaged if I am listening, writing, reflecting, and interacting with the message.  The more active I become, the less passive I am.

5. Finally, make an effort to hear the Spirit of God.  Pray before the sermon.  Pray while the sermon is being preached.  Pray when the sermon is finished.  You do your part as a growing believer in Christ to hear, receive, reflect and act upon the message God has sent to you through His Word.

Preaching may seem like a monologue, where one person is speaking and everyone else is listening, but it is not.  Preaching is a dialogue.  God is speaking through a vessel and we, His people, are listening, questioning, answering, and turning over God’s Word in our mind actively and rigorously.  You might not raise your hand and ask a question right in the middle of the sermon, but trust me, it’s a two-way street.

God always speaks.  The real question is: will you be ready to hear what He says?

 

Cross-Vocational Thinking in a Full-Time Ministry World

full timeIt seemed the goal of every seminarian I studied with was to be called as a full-time pastor, minister, missionary, non-profit leader, etc.  Rarely did I meet anyone whose desire was to be cross-vocational.

The singular aspiration was to find full-time support with full-time benefits, combing with a full-time salary, resulting in full-time demands in their ministry calling. The idea of going cross-vocational (my terminology for bi-vocational) was the furthest thing from their mind.

And to be honest, as a 20-something seminarian, I had the same mindset. While I served cross-vocationally my entire seminary life (i.e., working at a publishing company, a community center, a toy store, parking cars at a country club, substitute teaching while serving as a part-time youth minister), I dreamed of one day being on full-time staff.

I desperately wanted to be called to one place serving them full-time so I could be single-minded in my vocation and not so tired from running all over the place trying to make ends meet.

So when seminary graduation came, my hopes for full-time ministry were finally fulfilled.  I was called to serve a church as a full-time associate pastor.  That is what I did for the next 5 years.  I served full-time, 40, 50, 60 hours per week, week in and week out.  I thought I had finally made it to the big time.

But quickly I started noticing something I had not anticipated.  I started noticing that I was constantly surrounded with Christian people.  All my friends were Christians.  All the people I interacted with on a weekly basis were Christians.  Most of the time the only people I saw were church members and their families.

The demands of full-time ministry pushed me further and further into an entirely Christian sub-culture.  I rarely heard cuss words anymore.  I rarely saw people get drunk and stumble out to their car.  I rarely heard any of the office gossip I remembered from the publishing company, because my office was now a church office.

My full-time ministry was pulling me further into a vacuum-like tunnel where all I did was serve Christian people, teach Christian people, counsel Christian people and walk alongside Christian people.  Encountering someone without a relationship with Jesus Christ was rare.

This is the danger of full-time ministry, particularly in a local church.  On the mission field and in the non-profit world, there are plenty of interactions with unbelievers, but church-based pastoral ministry can be very insulated from the real depth of spiritual lostness.

That is why I have loved (and thrived) in cross-vocational ministry on the Christian college campus.  My university admits all sorts of people, believers and unbelievers, domestic and internationals.  While I am still somewhat in a Christian bubble, I do interact with all sorts of people who know very little about Jesus or even nothing at all.  They are students in my classes, athletes on scholarship, internationals studying abroad, and non-traditional students giving college a second chance.

I still serve the local church and love preaching and teaching God’s Word to God’s people, but being connected with unbelievers reminds me that Jesus came into the world to save sinners like me.  He came and died and commissioned us to live sent, live missionally, live in a world that desperately needs to know Him.

Cross-vocational ministry has provided a much easier path to missional living than full-time church ministry ever could have.  I pray that more and more pastors, ministers, and seminarians will consider giving their lives to cross-vocational ministry as a life calling.  Full-time is nice, cross-vo (in my humble opinion) is better.

Building Momentum in Ministry

momentum 2

In the world of business leadership, there is much effort given to building and maintaining momentum.  Momentum is the underlying force that creates stronger morale among employees and customers and makes everyone involved feel excitement and anticipation.

In business, marketers try to create momentum around a new product or promotion.  CEOs and presidents try to create momentum around a new vision or campaign.  Management tries to create momentum around a new person, new assignment, or new department being added.

In the world of ministry leadership, particularly church-based leadership, the same effort is given to building and maintaining organizational and organic momentum.

Organizational momentum is when the church starts gaining small victories.  Small wins, that individually are not overly significant, but collectively propel a sense of “we are going somewhere” and “something good is finally happening around here.”

Organic momentum is when you actually start seeing spiritual growth in people, particularly those you are investing deeply in, and visible growth in a variety of metrics (e.g., giving, worship attendance, baptisms, small groups started, outreach efforts, mission trips, etc.)

The key for gaining organizational and organic momentum is seeing it as a real goal to actively strive toward.  Most pastoral leaders want to build momentum philosophically, but it is not really something that shows up on their week-to-week radar.  They want momentum to build toward their larger vision for transformation and growth, but they are not doing anything intentional to make it happen.  And for that reason, months come and months go and really nothing is gained.

So how do you build momentum on a week-by-week basis in ministry leadership?

1.  Tell lots of success stories.  Sharing the small victories over and over publicly in worship, in printed materials, on the church website, in small groups, in staff meetings, in leadership circles, wherever, whenever, with whomever you can.  You must keep telling the success stories.  No one will care, or even notice, if you don’t.  And when you start feeling like a broken record, you are not done.  Total submersion is the goal.

2.  Recast the vision over and over.  Along with sharing small victories, you have to keep casting the vision of growth, change, renovation, renewal, and revitalization.  To be a leader, you must take people to a place they would not go by themselves.  We all know Rick Warren’s axiom that vision must be cast every 28 days.  I am starting to believe it needs to be every 7-10 days in this culture.

You don’t have to cast all parts or every aspect of the vision all the time, but momentum is built when the larger body sees how this particular piece fits in with where things are moving and going.

3.  Give other people room to excel and then praise them publicly for it.  Momentum is a shared experience.  In other words, momentum begets more momentum.  When one of your teammates does something well, shout it from the rooftops.  Give them room to succeed and then cheer lead for them.  Cheer lead especially for the ones that often get overlooked like landscaping and maintenance, senior adult groups, benevolence, children’s ministry leaders, and the fellowship committees.

4.  Capitalize on the seasons of newness in the annual calendar.  There are several times a year when momentum can be built as a natural out-flow from the calendar.   Fall is perfect because of the start of school.  January is also strong with the new year.  I personally like the 90 day push of February-March-April because it has huge exclamation point at the end – Resurrection.  If you capitalize on these seasons, you will find momentum easier to gain.

5.  Lastly, don’t be afraid to be happy about what is happening.  Let your emotions show.  We all know there is a proper place for humility and recognition that all good gifts (including momentum) come from the Lord.  But you must let your people see that you are excited.  That you are sense a building anticipation.  That you see things happening and are so thrilled to be part of a move of God.

There is nothing wrong with being joyful that you are not in a dead church going nowhere fast, but God has been so gracious to plant you in a living church that is on the move.

Momentum is a one of those fleeting things that is hard to come by and even harder to sustain.  Here today, gone tomorrow is a very suitable cliché.  But when you do build momentum organizationally and organically, I encourage you to pour gas on the fire because it might be a while before it burns this hot again.

Ministry Nay-Sayers in the Crowd

Jesus fish bread

Image from Expressions from Hallmark

The best birthday card I got this summer had a wonderful image on the front.  The image had Jesus trying to feed the 5000 but a few nay-sayers in the crowd wouldn’t have any of it.

The inside caption read “Avoid complainers and have a great birthday.”  Thanks Mrs. Sherry.  This was a perfect card for me.

We live in a world where even the miracles of Jesus, such as feeding the 5000, would be scrutinized, questioned and scorned by people because of their personal preference and desires.

In all types of ministry leadership, there are going to be people who nay-say everything you do.  They say “it costs too much,” “it won’t work,” or the dreaded, “we have never done it that way before.”

In a very real way these individuals believe their sole purpose on the planet is to hold others back.  To press their unhappiness onto the whole group.  To come across as the wise and prudent, but actually represent the grumpy and stubborn.

I have faced some of these types in my life.  But guess what, so did Jesus.

In John 5, we read that immediately after Jesus healed a lame man at the Pool of Bethesda, the ministry nay-sayers of his day began questioning his methods.  They completely overlooked that a paralyzed man who had been 38 years on his back was now walking about, and instead focused on how Jesus broke a Sabbath law.  The phrase “you can’t win from losin” comes to mind.

True ministry leadership has to rise above the nay-sayers.  True Christ-like leaders have to use the nay-saying as fuel to greater communication and vision.  You have to take their words of disapproval and use them as incentive that you are on to something good and right.  Yet if you linger in their words, you will never do anything for the Lord.  You will become stagnant, withdrawn and scared.

Maybe you have experienced ministry nay-sayers in your life.  If so, I suggest trying two things in response to them.

1.  Thank God for them.  It may seem counter-intuitive to praise God for their nay-saying, but their presence might be the assurance you need to know you are onto something God-sized.

2.  Make it a challenge.  Ask them if they will try something with you.  Ask them to agreed to whatever you are proposing for short-time period and if it works, they must be first to admit they were wrong.  But if they are right and you are wrong, you must agree to be the first to admit your failure and try something else.

With a handshake and a challenge in place, you might discover the nay-sayers will become your greatest advocate and partner in leadership.

Last Letter to Hurstbourne BC

DSC01616

Resurrection Sunday 2014

We knew it would eventually come to an end.   I am sure you have heard the old saying, “All good things must come to an end.” Well, I don’t think I like that saying any more, especially when it comes to the ending of ministry together.

I want every person at Hurstbourne BC to know how much Jennifer, the boys and I have loved being with you. You welcomed us with open arms from the earliest days and have treated us like family every Sunday we been there. Never once did we feel like outsiders. Instead, you made us feel like long-time friends and family.

I want to say a very extra special thank to the pastoral staff – Chris, Cameron, Jeff and Vince – along with office team of Carolyn, Carmen and Mike. Each one of these men and women are top-notch servant-leaders who remain kingdom-minded and Gospel-focused in all they do. Serving with them has been a tremendous joy.

I want to also say thank you to the Personnel Team led by Mrs. Jan Watts. From the beginning interview, through the entire interim, until today, this group, in general and Mrs. Jan in particular, have been so easy to work with and serve alongside. They have made this one of the best interim experiences I have ever had.

I believe there are very bright days ahead for HBC. I believe there are hundreds of people who will come through your doors in the coming months. I encourage and challenge you to treat them just like you have treated us. Introduce yourself. Make them feel at home. Show them around. Help them find the way to the gym, which I still struggle to find. Treat them to your warmest hospitality and friendship as you have done for us.

If you do that, HBC will explode with new faces, new ministry ventures, and news ways to be a blessing to your community. The ride is just beginning. I hope you are ready.

I love you all and will forever keep you in my heart.

Grace, Shane

5 Things VBS Is that Other Ministries are Usually Not

VBS Family Night at Hurstbourne Bapt Church, Louisville, KY

VBS Family Night at Hurstbourne Bapt Church, Louisville, KY

For me a conversation about local church ministry does not take long until the subject of VBS (Vacation Bible School) comes around.  It is no surprise to anyone who knows me and my story, that I am a huge fan of VBS.

I came to saving faith through the ministry of VBS and love to tell how thousands of lives are transformed each and every year through this powerful outreach.  I will always say “Yes” to VBS.

But if I put my bias aside and attempt to critically, analytically evaluate the benefits of VBS, I have discovered that this ministry does some things that other ministries simply do not.  VBS has some advantages, strategically, that most ministries in the local church don’t even compare to.

Such as…

1.  VBS is highly intergenerational.  Meaning all age groups, both young and old, and everything in the middle, interact and spend time together for one week.  They worship together, study together, fellowship together, and serve together.  What other ministry effort joins hundreds of volunteers from all ages for one week and structures an experience where they get to know one another and serve as one big, happy family?  I can not think of anything we present have that creates intergenerational connections as much as VBS.

2.  VBS is very collaborative.  When kids ministry leaders attempt to pull off a VBS week, it requires significant time planning, collaborating and communicating together.  There are various teams, such as preschool, crafts, music, food, administration, follow-up, etc, all working together to make sure all the details are managed.  Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds talk and share ideas together about what they should do and what they should avoid.  I would have to believe this week is the most collaborative ministry event on the church calendar.

3.  VBS is intentionally evangelistic.  It goes without saying that VBS far outpaces most other ministry efforts when it comes to intentional evangelism.  I have heard a leading VBS expert (from my SBC tribe) say that for the past 30 years there has not been any other ministry effort even come close to the number of salvations that VBS has seen.  Not revival meetings, not disaster relief, not food and clothing ministries come close.

4.  VBS is one of the remaining creative outlets in the church.  With the ending of the Easter pageants and Christmas plays, there are not many outlets left in church life where Christian people are encouraged to use their artistic gifts.  There are not times when sets are built, rooms are elaborately decorated, costumes are pulled out and put to use, paint brushes and construction paper fly wildly.  The Creator God has created us to be mini-creators, but there are not many ways to utilize these gift any more, particularly in the visual arts.  VBS provides this creative outlet each and every year.

5.  Lastly, VBS has service opportunities for every believer in Christ, no matter their spiritual maturity level.  Everyone can serve somewhere.  Whether you have been a Christian for less than a year or you are nearing the time when you will see Jesus face to face, VBS has a place for you to serve.

When you put these 5 things up against almost every other ministry venue in the local church, VBS stands above.  While the music ministry is intergenerational, it is not intentionally evangelistic.  While Sunday School and small groups are very collaborative, those ministry venues are not overtly creative.  VBS stands above.  It has benefits that other ministries do not have.

So if you are a longtime VBS’er, I commend you to not give up.   If your church hasn’t done VBS in a while, consider bringing it back and see what it provides.  If you have never served in VBS, commit to giving it a chance in 2015.  I believe you will see that it is absolutely worth it.

A KBC Boy from CU, SWBTS, SBTS and back to CU with No Problems Whatsoever

In the midst of a rather weighty and public dialogue happening between Campbellsville University and the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I wanted to shore up a few personal things about my experience as a Campbellsville student (’99 alumnus) and as a CU School of Theology faculty member since 2008.

I can’t speak for everyone who has been through our doors, but here are the indisputable, unshakeable facts about my personal experience at CU and connection with the KBC.

– I was saved and baptized in a rural KBC church in 1987 – the Lewisport Baptist Church in Lewisport, KY – through the ministry of VBS.  I have been a member of KBC church every year of my born-again Christian life, except while in TX during seminary.

– My home church supported my decision to go to Campbellsville University in the mid-90’s and even helped me financially.

My personal faith in Christ exploded while at CU.  My understanding and belief in the Bible grew 10-fold.  My love for taking the Gospel to the unreached peoples of the world “blew up” while studying here.  My call to ministry was significantly nurtured and encouraged.  The opportunities to serve in KBC churches and in God’s kingdom through all sorts of ministries was enhanced and elevated simply because I was at CU.

– After CU, I studied at Southwestern Baptist Theo. Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.  There wasn’t one thing at SWBTS that made me question my academic experience at CU.  It only added to what was already there – biblically, theologically, philosophically, and practically – everything was in line.

– While in seminary, I served in two SBC churches as youth minister.  In those churches I used what I learned at CU and from SWBTS without having to modify any of my core convictions or theological roots.  They were perfectly in line with traditional Baptistic ways.

– After seminary, I served a KBC church in Northern KY.  Again, no problems whatsoever theologically, biblically or practically.  My training at CU combined with SWBTS was in sync with kingdom-building, Gospel-expanding principles of leadership and strategy.

– As I began my doctoral studies at the Southern Baptist Theo. Seminary, again there were no problems whatsoever.  Actually, what I had learned at CU, plus SWBTS, plus in practical church experience made my SBTS time even more fruitful.  There were no snickers that a CU guy was studying at SBTS.  Even as I finished at SBTS and started my first year teaching at CU, no one said a word.  No one hinted of any problems.  All in all, everything was positive as far as I could tell.

– Six years ago when I came to CU to be considered for a position in the School of Theology, I was asked lots of questions.  My theology, biblical interpretation, methodology, experience, and practice of the spiritual disciplines were all questioned in the interview process.  Not because I was a risky candidate, but because that is what we do with everyone who is considered.

– In the 6 years I have been in the classroom, I have never been told to do anything other than teach biblical truths with my theological convictions openly and honestly before my students Everyone knows where I stand on things and that has never been a problem.  Again, no issues whatsoever.

– In addition to teaching, CU leaders have overwhelmingly embraced and encouraged me to continue serving in KBC churches.  I have served four KBC churches as interim pastor: Parkway BC, Bethany BC, Lancaster BC and Hurstbourne BC.  There has never been any issues with me being a CU, SWBTS, SBTS and KBC guy.  Again, no issues whatsoever.

– Lastly, my wife is nearing the completion of her Ph.D. from SBTS in Family Ministry and has taught five classes at CU as an adjunct instructor.  Again, no problems or issues whatsoever.

Are you seeing a running theme?  In summary, we are, and have always been, KBC connected.  My family are, and will continue to be,  members of a KBC church.  I will hopefully, if God wills, continue serving as an interim pastor in KBC churches.

Interim No. 6 Coming to a Close

Kids of HBC

Easter Sunday @ Hurstbourne Baptist Church

Next Sunday, Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville will come together to extend a call to my friend and current student pastor Bro. Cameron Debity.  If all goes well, this means interim pastorate no. 6 is coming to a close.

With each of these six churches and interim contexts, I have learned new lessons about this type of ministry and church leadership in general.  Here are a few lessons I picked up this time around.

1.  Even in the city, rural-like hospitality still works.   There is an assumption that when you live in a major city with hundreds of thousands of people no one wants you in their home or at their table.  While that can be true in some places, I found at HBC that there was still a sweet sense of in-home hospitality.  There hasn’t hardly been a Sunday in over 6 months where we didn’t have an invitation to a home for lunch.  Maybe this is only because I am the pastor, but it is so good to see that table fellowship is still alive.

2.  People of means have the same basic needs as people who struggle.   HBC is located in a rather affluent section of Louisville.  Many of the attenders are, or have been in the past, very successful men and women in their line of work.  One might think because of their status in life they don’t need anything, but that is not true.  It doesn’t matter how much is in the checking account or sitting in mutual funds, people are still people.  And people have needs.  No matter who you are or what you earn, people struggle with sin.  People struggle with relationships.  People struggle making Jesus first and foremost in their lives.

3.  When there are multiple staff members and a senior pastor moves on, the primary goal is to embolden and champion the staff who remain.  This was the first time in any interim where I had a rather large team remaining – 6 full-time teammates, each who were competent, flexible, and really strong in their particular areas of service.   I found the key in this interim was to let them loose.  To challenge them to go big or go home.  To praise them publicly and privately and encourage them to boost their ministry areas 5-fold.  The outcome was the church never felt like we were in an “interim.”  We were able to create momentum which turned the interim phase into a season of advance, not a season of survival.

If all goes well, my last day at Hurstbourne Baptist Church will be August 10.  This has been one of the best interim experiences I’ve had.  Lots of heart connections.  Lots of great times together in worship.  Lots of meaningful conversations.  This experience is going to be hard to match.

Who knows where interim no. 7 might land us next.

Obituary for Crystal Danielle (Garrison) Horton

Jan. 13, 1980 – Jul. 15, 2014

Crystal Smith Horton

Crystal Danielle (Garrison) Smith – 1/13/80 – 7/15/14

Crystal Danielle Horton, 34, passed away on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at her residence. Crystal was born in Hardinsburg on Sunday, January 13, 1980 to Danny (Denise) Garrison of Lewisport and Donna Sue (O’Neal) Wall of South Carolina. Crystal worked at Whitworth Tools and Subway in Hardinsburg. She was an active member of Hardinsburg Methodist Church and was a 1998 graduate of Breckenridge County High School.

Her greatest joy was spending time with her children and family. Crystal is preceded in death by her fraternal grandfather, Ivan Garrison; her fraternal grandmother Ozella Hines, and her maternal grandmother, Dolly Mattingly.

Crystal is survived by her parents Danny and Denise Garrison of Lewisport and Donna Sue and O’Neal Wall of Plum Branch, South Carolina; a son, Connar Smith, and a daughter Haley Smith, both of Hardinsburg.

She is also survived by her brothers, Chris Garrison of Lewisport, Shane (Jennifer) Garrison of Campbellsville, and Justin Wall of South Carolina; her grandfather, Paul Mattingly of Hardinsburg and her grandmother, Sue Hill of Lewisport.

She is also survived by her step-brother, Ryan Williamson of Hawesville; her step-sisters, Kelly (Keith) Cambron of Lewisport, and Rhonda (Steve) Wininger of Jasper, Indiana; her aunts, Sheila Dowell Priest of Hardinsburg, Bonnie (Jim) Yocum of Louisville, Missy James of Lewisport, Lucy (David) Terrell of Owensboro; and uncles Ernie Garrison of Lewisport and Keith (Serita) Dowell of Custer, Ky., as well as several nieces, nephews and cousins.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Taylor-Wood Funeral Home in Lewisport (295-3312). Visitation is from 2:00 to 8:00 P.M. Friday and after 9:00 a.m. Saturday followed by Crystal’s funeral service at 11:00 a.m. in the funeral home chapel.

Burial will follow in Lewisport Cemetery. Bro. Greg Shannon and Dr. Shane Garrison will officiate.

Worship Leaders Wanted – The Hardest Find in Church Ministry

helpTeaching pastors are a dime a dozen.  Youth ministers are everywhere.  Children’s ministry leaders are sought after all the time.  But where are the worship pastors?

Where are the music ministers?  Where are the creative-types that lead us each and every Sunday to the throne of grace?  Where are coming from?  Where have they gone?   The answer: no one knows.

As an interim pastor and frequent guest speaker in churches, I serve alongside all sorts of worship leaders.  Very few are full-time staff members; most are part-time, cross-vocational servant-leaders pulling two or three jobs to forge a living.  In smaller churches, you mostly have faithful volunteers with little or no musical training but who have a desire to serve God.

I love them all.  I love their heart.  I love their willingness to get up there and lead people who often look like marble statues with frowny faces :(.  I love when they partner with me as the teacher/preacher to make the entire service meaningful.

But their kind are going extinct.  They are dying away.  And the younger generation are not moving up to fill their spots.  It seems that the younger generation could care less.

Why is this happening?  Let me suggest a few possible reasons.

First, in our day and time theology is king and the teaching/preaching ministry of the church has become exalted as the highest order of church-based ministry.  While there is no doubt theology is critical in our culture with rampant pluralism, relativistic secularization, and a large segment of our population who are biblically illiterate, but does that mean the preaching and teaching ministry must command the majority of our worship time?  I would offer that most of our deeply held theological roots come not from sermons, but from songs.  (I’ve written on when pastors were the hymn writers.)

Another reason is perceived value.  As pastor/theologians view their role as the most essential for church health and spiritual growth, other ministry platforms are viewed as less valuable or subsequently inferior.  I wouldn’t say they are viewed as insufficient, but their value is not essential.   The common notion among many preaching pastors today is that as long as the teaching/preaching ministry is good, strong and biblically faithful, then other sectors of ministry will, by proxy, succeed.  I am not sure I agree with that conclusion.

A third reason is that it hard to find someone who believes God has called them into worship ministry.  You might discover someone with talent in vocal or instrumental music, or in songwriting, or even in leading people in corporate worship, but the last thing they are considering is using these talents for the Lord through local church ministry.  I teach hundreds of young adults preparing for future ministry and rarely do I have any student who believes God has called them to lead worship as their vocation.

Rewind back 25 years.  In those days, the music minister (or music director) was viewed as second most important team member on the church staff, far ahead of youth, children or education.  The role was highly important because of the amount of “face time” they shared with the teaching pastor.  The two-man team was like as Batman and Robin, Jordan and Pippen, Andy and Barney.  They worked as a tag-team planning worship elements, service designs, and ways to incorporate creativity into the plan.  This function is very rare today.

Today, the worship minister is not that important.  Most church leaders view children’s ministry as the #2 most important staff position to fill.  A poor children’s ministry equates to fewer young families and diminished growth potential.  Worship leadership might make it to the third or fourth slot on most church teams.

All these reasons (and many more) lead to lessened interest in exploring God’s call in worship ministry.

Fast forward 25 years.  I anticipate there will be few, if any, young people following God’s call into music ministry.  I believe there will be very few full-time worship pastors, only found on large church staffs with multiple services.  I sense that schools of music at the seminary and Christian college level will no longer prepare students in church music or worship leadership.  Those degrees will go away.

I believe the want ads will be filled with churches desperately looking for someone, anyone, to lead worship at their church, but no one will be applying.

These are just my predictions.  I hope I am utterly wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

 

Two Types of Teams – Church Staff and College Dept

Two groups of people dividedOver the past decade, I have served on two types of teams – a church staff team and an academic departmental team.  Five years on the first; six years and counting on the second.

In retrospect, these two types of teams could not be any more different.  Something I wish I could have understood way back when.

Here are some differences between the two.

1.  Church staff teams work very close to one another, while academic department teams have lots of internal space.

Church staffs usually share the same calendar with everyone fighting for dates.  They also have to share resources from the same budget, utilizing the same key people, reserving the same facility space, and sometimes even the sharing the same office.  Everything is close; everything is shared.  One thing done by a particular staff person effects everyone else in some way or another.  No one is an island unto themselves.

Academic teams are very different.  There is more internal space between the faculty members.  While they may have to share the departmental budget, they usually function from their own calendar, working independently from their own class schedule, making improvements to their own degree programs, and even separating their own students from others in the department.  The internal space within provides more individualism and less shared resources.  This can be both a good thing and a source of conflict if not managed properly.

2.  Church staff teams meet frequently, while academic department teams may meet once or twice a month.

Again, this promotes more internal space between faculty and their day-to-day activities.  Church staffs have to communicate with each other.  They have to know what the other team members are doing, so not to disrupt the delicate balance of everything.  Significant time meeting one-on-one with your senior pastor or sitting down together as a team is essential.

Academic teams do not have this requirement.  As long as you are doing your thing, teaching your classes, meeting with your students, you are good to go.  You also have the academic calendar and its scheduled breaks like fall break, Christmas break, spring break, and summer break.  There are times when it might be two or three months before I see any my colleagues on a regular basis.

3.  Church staff teams must be unified and functioning in a semi-healthy dynamic in order to succeed.  Academic department team don’t require the same level of unity. 

The indicators of success are so wildly different. For the church staff, success might be measured in spiritual growth or programmatic advancement or development of an effective outreach strategy.  For the academic dept., success is mostly measured in numeric growth, graduation rates, retention from year to year, new program development, and adding of faculty members.

The academic dept. team can say,  “Hey, we had a great year” and really not be united behind a singular vision or even enjoying spending time with one another.  That is not the case with a church staff.

A seasoned faculty member once told me that teaching on the college campus is like playing on the Ryder’s Cup squad – Everyone is collectively on the team, but you still play your match by yourself.  As long as you personally are doing your part, you don’t have to really like or even play along with your academic team mates.

4.  Lastly, church staff teams live in a highly emotional environment, while academic dept. teams only experience high emotion once or twice per year, usually around the end of term.

The discipleship and soul-care of saints and expanding the kingdom through evangelism form a very emotional environment for the church staff.  Everything is personal.  Relationships are personal.  Church politics are personal.  Team dynamics among the staff is very personal.  Not to mention living life together with church members whom you love and who love you in return.  The heart is always engaged.

Academic dept. teams are not like this.  While there are personal relationships among colleagues and meaningful relationships with students, the environment is not nearly as emotional.  It can be at times, but it usually is not.  Students move on.  Semesters move on.  Graduation comes every December and May.  The fall semester becomes the spring semester and then everyone leaves for summer break.   We start again in the fall and follow the pattern year after year.

As I look back over the past eleven years, these two types of team stand in stark contrast.  I never knew how different they really are.  I wrongly assumed the team I joined on the college campus would be very similar to the team I left from church.  I was wrong.  They are two completely different environments.  I don’t think one is better and the other worse; they are just wildly different.

 

5 Questions Answered in 5 Sermons

since you askedAt Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville, we have recently finished a series of messages called Since You Asked.

Basically, I gave the entire congregation the chance to ask biblical, theological, and spiritual questions in which I would try to answer in a sermon.  We received nearly 30 questions and I attempted to answer five of them.

Maybe you have wondered about these things.  I have included the question and a link to the sermon audio if these have ever been questions in your mind.  Take a listen and let me know what you think.

  • How do we publicly and privately interact as the body of Christ with people who we significantly disagree with? sermon audio
  • When Christians leave this earthly life, do we immediately go and be with Jesus, seeing him face-to-face or will there be a waiting period for the second coming of Christ?  sermon audio
  • How do relationships work in heaven? Will we know and recognize our earthly family and friends? sermon audio
  • Does God control the small things? Such as does God give us one job over another? Does God determine where a student is accepted into college? Did God put my child in that teacher’s class? A fender bender that could have been a horrible accident, was that a “God thing”? The tickets to a sold-out ball game that are suddenly offered to us by a co-worker, is that orchestrated by God?  sermon audio
  • If a young man accepts Christ and is living a Christian life, has a Christian wife and two children. All is well. Time elapses, he gets involved with another woman, divorces his wife, gets into drinking and gambling. He drops out of church. His lifestyle never changes and he passes away. Is this person still going to heaven?  sermon audio

Proud Papa, A Father’s Day Reflection

phillies

The 2014 CYB Phillies – Pee Wee League Champs. Isaac is on the second row, third from left.

My 8 year old son Isaac and his Pee Wee baseball team, the Phillies, are league champs, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

They had a great year with a 13-2 record in the regular season, winning the league championship, and going into the year-end tournament a #1 seed, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

Isaac learned more about baseball than we could have ever imagined.  At the beginning of the season he could barely throw 5 feet away and couldn’t catch a thing.  He was terrified to hit, run, or have a ball hit his way.  I am not exaggerating.

As an 8 year old who had never cared one day about baseball, he really only wanted to play because his 6 year old brother was stealing some of the spotlight.

From the very beginning, we knew he was in for a very different experience.  He was really challenged by the coaches to figure the game out.  Every rule, position, strategy, and technique of baseball was completely foreign to him.  He and I started playing Mario Super Slugger on the Wii just he could figure out the names of the positions and how you got an out.

Everything he learned about baseball, from the rules to how to swing a bat to how you run the bases, was all brand new and completely from scratch.  We played and practiced a lot in the backyard.  He did great, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

He has a little plague now in his room that declares the world that he was on the 2014 Campbellsville Youth Baseball Pee League championship team, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

This Father’s Day is special because on Sunday, the day before the championship game, my son Isaac leaned over to his mother during our invitation at church and said, “Mommy, I need to be saved.”

When he and his momma came to me in the front, my son was gripped by the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  This was not him doing something we wanted, this was him saying “I need Jesus in my life as my personal savior.”

We have been talking and discussing this for quite sometime.  But this was his decision.  We knew nothing about it.  We had no clue it was coming like it did.

My Isaac, my little laughter, who is named for the son of Abraham and Sarah, a child of promise, a child of a new heritage, a child that God gave to begin a new spiritual legacy, is now and will forever be my brother in Christ.

That is making this Father’s Day very, very special.

When the Cost of Everything Goes Up and Giving Goes Down

I was listening to a church budget discussion a couple of weeks ago in a Budget & Finance Committee meeting.  For those who are not Southern Baptist, most SBC churches have a some sort of committee or team which is largely responsible for putting together and presenting a yearly church budget to which the congregation votes on.  They are also responsible for looking at expenses and giving trends throughout the year.

This particular church has noticed a trend line that is tracking toward a $100k shortfall for the year.  One of the vocal leaders, who happens to have a MBA in Accounting and 45 years in corporate management, said these words which have hung heavy on my heart for weeks.

He said (paraphrased),

“Everything we pay for is getting more expense.  From vehicle, property, and liability insurance, to all the food for the various meal, to the gas for the church bus, to medical coverage for the staff, to printing costs, literature costs, to toilet paper and paper plates.  We have been asked to give more to missions, support church planting, and update all our facilities to be eye-catching and seeker-friendly,  yet the giving keeps doing down.”

In other words, the cost of everything the church spends its money on is getting more expense and giving continues to decline.   If you created two trends lines, the expense line would be going up and up and the giving line would be going down.  All the while the church has maintained its average attendance over the past 5 years.

Giving-decline1Why is giving going down?  Many have pointed to a changing demographic in charitable giving.

It is largely generational with younger Gen. X and Millennial believers unable, or unwilling, to give at the same rates as Boomers and Builders.  When Boomers retire and Builders pass away, church contributions will never be the same again.

It is also simple economics in the home.  If the cost of gas, food, mortgages, insurance, and the like are getting more expense at church, the same is happening to families.  Individuals and families with significant student loan and credit card debt are absolutely strapped.

It is also a discipleship issue.  The idea of tithing or stewardship have lost their ability to be heard in our culture.  Everyone loves a Cold Water Challenge or a 5K Run/Walk for Cancer, but there is a hostile attitude toward consistently, sacrificially giving with no strings attached to the local church.

What solutions might there be for this giving paradigm shift?

I believe cross-vocational ministry is going to be key.  The single major expense a church normally has is personnel and staff.  If we could embrace a cross-vocational ministry approach to lessen personnel cost, there would more ministry funds elsewhere.

But cross-vocational ministry is challenging, especially for churches over 200 in attendance.

  • How is the church supposed to survive if no one is in the office 40 hours a week?
  • How is the church supposed to survive if all the pastoral staff work in other places alongside of their pastoral ministry?
  • How is the church supposed to survive when a church members needs have to be put on the back burner because one of the pastors is at work…their other work.

I hope to answer these questions more in the days to follow.

Church Ministry Resumes vs. Personal Advertisement Pieces

Last year, I was asked to help a church searching for a lead pastor.  They asked me to look through all the resumes they had received and see if I agreed with their top 5 candidates.  It was the first time that I, as a pastor who has my own personal church ministry resume, looked over so many other pastor’s church ministry resumes.  I was completely, utterly shocked.

binder

Binder Full of Ministry Resumes

The spectrum of difference in design and scope was unbelievable.

Some resumes looked like full-color, 4-page media press releases.  Pictures, backgrounds, graphic designs, and interactive links.  One extreme resume had the prospective pastor in various tight-fitting muscle shirts, standing in intimidating poses with lightning bolts and thunder clouds surrounding him, like he was Thor or a WWE wrestler.

I promise you, I am not making this up.  He sold himself as a hell-fire preacher and prophet who brought with him apostolic signs and wonders.  I guess that is why he needed lightning bolts.

Others were really poor Microsoft Word resume templates with barely any information, no images, terrible spelling, and pathetic design.  These resumes communicated humility (which I appreciated) but also poor work ethic, no creativity, and lack of vision or skill.

So where is the balance?  Where is the middle ground between speaking to your experience and giftedness without selling yourself to the highest bidder?  How can a pastor selection team learn about your convictions and passion in ministry and yet not feel if they are being sold something?

Here are some ideas for the church ministry resume.

1.  Be honest and clear and minimize the hype.  Don’t exaggerate. Don’t embellish.  Be forthright and upfront.  Tell your true ministry experience and journey without hyperbolic language.  Remember it is God who is the giver of all good gifts and you are not a gift to the ministry world.  In the same vein, don’t be so humble, so contrite, so simple that the prospective church feels sorry for you.  You are a servant of the King – live in that calling with courage and confidence.

2.  Be helpful, resourceful and industrious.  Make the printed resume easy to read, easy to follow, and easy to access additional information.  While business resumes are usually no more than 2 pages in length, a ministry resume is not held to that same standard.  It can be longer and more developed without the perception of overkill.

I highly recommend creating an additional biographical blog site to go along with the ministry resume.  This site becomes a virtual repository of personal and theological information.  On the site, you can create links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, embed recent Twitter feeds, post and link any sermon video or audio available from any church, add your personal philosophy of ministry statement plus any doctrinal or theological statement you hold to.  You could add pictures or photo albums of your family to give a sense of who you are outside of ministry.

3.  Be visually-oriented and narratively-focused.  Every person under the age of 60 is visually-oriented.  They need pictures, images, and color to move their eyes across the page.  Without going overboard, your resume needs to have a visual appeal to it.  Consider your church’s bulletin.  What if it was only text and no images?  Would you want to read through it?

Also be narratively-focused.  While bullet points and jaunted sentences might appeal to the quick reader, your resume needs to tell a story.  The story of your journey with Jesus, call into ministry, and experience from the field.  It needs to have a beginning, a past, and a present flow.  Bulleted lists and strict outlines struggle in communicating time and story.

I am in no way an expert on church ministry resumes, but I offer mine as an example to start with.  My church ministry resume has gone through thousands of edits and redesigns.  The great part is, I am not looking for a church position so I don’t feel any sense of urgency.  If it helps, be my guest.

Church Ministry Resume 2014

 

Go Cross-Vo Not Bi-Vo

I have been involved in bi-vocational ministry for the past 6 years.  This simply means I work a normal, full-time job (for me on the faculty of a Christian university) and serve part-time in local churches.  I have loved every minute in this dual ministry role.

What I do not love is the terminology: bi-vo.  Bi-vo, short for bi-vocational, has a negative connotation to it.  To most people in the pews it means that their pastor or church staff member is split in two.  That your heart is divided.  That you have to focused on one job to the detriment of the other.  As if you are in a tug-of-war between two jobs – one will win, the other will lose.

tug-o-war1

In bi-vo ministry, someone wins, someone will lose.

While more and more churches are considering going bi-vo because of financial constraints and/or declining attendance, they feel having a bi-vo pastor or bi-vo worship leader is a sign of defeat and impending death.  In all actuality, bi-vo can be a huge boost in lay-ministry involvement, community engagement and potential outreach.

Therefore, I think we need to change the language.  I think we need to reframe the vision and conversation surrounding bi-vocational ministry.

From this point forward, I will use the phrase “cross-vocational” instead of bi-vo.

  • Cross-vocational means you are living equally in two worlds: the marketplace and the ministry location.
  • Cross-vocational means you have on-going relationships with two groups simultaneously – your brothers and sisters in Christ and those you serve in the workplace.
  • Cross-vocational means you are fluid, entrepreneurial, creative, willing to be flexible, able to lead and succeed in both contexts.

Cross-vocational ministry has been the calling card of our missionaries and church planters for centuries.  They all have had to work both sides of the ministry field, in the world and out of the world, serving those who have yet to hear and to those who are fully committed to Christ.  I believe the cross-vocational spirit will come to more and more pastors and church leaders in the days ahead.

I believe a cross-vocational shift is coming in America for three primary reasons.

1.  Significant differences between the Builders & Boomers and the X’ers and Millennials in giving and stewardship patterns will result in precipitous declines in church budgets.  There will simply not be enough resources to fully-fund church staff, especially in light of health care cost.  (See my recent post on the ending of full-time paid youth ministry.)

2.  As evangelism and baptisms decrease, pastors and church leaders will demand freedom to engage unreached people within their communities.  This access will only come from unhinging themselves from a pervasive Christian sub-culture inside the church and interacting with more non-believers out in the real world.

3.  As churches streamlining and simplifying their ministry efforts and programming (aka the winnowing effect), they will have to say “no” to the secondary, more peripheral ministries in lieu of keeping the essential ministries.  The end result will be less day-to-day work to do.  This means less needed, fully-funded paid staff.

I do not see any way around this ministry shift.

I do see a large number of churches really struggling with this new reality.  But if they want to be proactive, they might consider going cross-vo now when its their choice instead of going cross-vo later when they have no choice.

(To be continued. More on cross-vocational ministry in the days to come.)

 

 

 

 

 

The End of Paid Youth Ministry

Every two years I teach a class called Introduction to Youth Ministry.  And every two years, I wonder if it will be the last go-round.

I have been speculating and saying publicly for years that full-time youth ministry positions were going the way of the dinosaur.  I could see it in the job postings, hear it in conversations with Educational Ministry professionals, and watch it in the churches of KY, where I serve.

At one point (5 or 6 years ago), I was receiving two or three calls a week asking for resumes of young, graduating CU students looking to serve in full-time youth ministry.  But those calls are becoming less and less.  The vast majority of calls I now receive are for children’s ministry leaders.

While I knew a change was afoot, I didn’t have any other supporting evidence.  Until Group Magazine published its May/June 2014 edition with the front cover questioning “The End of Paid Youth Ministry?” I knew someone would eventually start talking about this shift.

The piece is written by Mark Devries, founder of Ministry Architects, formerly Youth Ministry Architects.

group magazine small

Group Magazine May/June 2014 Edition

Devries tracks compensation and benefit packages for full-time youth ministry leaders over the past decade.  The trend showed that from 2005-2010, there was an increase in salary and benefit packages.  Yet after 2010, there has been a steady decline.

Since that point, the compensation packages have been moving downward, making the average compensation in 2012 – $37,500, which includes take home pay, medical insurance, life insurance, retirement, travel and resource expenses all in one bundle.  In reality, the take-home pay is much closer to $25,000 which is hard to live on in America, particularly in the cities, as a single income.  Its doable, but a stretch.

The other trend of interest is youth ministry leaders who work a second job, meaning the youth ministry is not their only source of income.  Since 2005 that percentage has increased from 17% to 36%.

Devries conclusion is simple and straightforward:  “It’s not the end of paid youth ministry, but the end of full-time, fully-benefited youth ministry.”  Churches, with tighter budgets and the insufficient funds to keep up with rising medical cost, are thinking differently.

Devries goes on to say,

When we assess all the ancillary expenses required for a full-time employee, it’s not hard to understand this shift – health and other benefits for a full-timer can run as much as 30 percent of salary, making two part-timers (without benefits) a much better ‘deal’ for many churches than one full-timer. (emphasis mine)

I have seen this trend everywhere.  Churches can hire two interns or two part-time youth leaders, say one for middle school and one for high school, or one for children and one for teenagers, and not provide any benefits, insurance or time off.  In a sense, they get two (or even three) for the price of one. I have been seeing this for years.

To all my Ed. Min. students (and anyone else interested in youth ministry), if you want to serve students in the local church then find a great job doing something in the public or private sector.  Something you love.  Something you can live on.  Something you can find fulfillment in.  And then seek out a youth ministry position to serve teenagers and students in the local church.

Devries seals this revised vision when he says, “Working a second job to support our ministry calling doesn’t mean we’re bi-vocational – it’s a single vocation, expressed in different ways.”  Absolutely on-point and will be essential in the future.

Thank you Group Magazine for bringing light to this change.  We needed to hear it.

One Year as CU Faculty Chair

Dr. Frank Cheatham, Dr. Joseph Owens, Congressman Ed Whitfield, Dr. Michael Carter, myself, Mrs. Paula Smith, Dr. Mark Bradley

Commencement Breakfast, May 3, 2014 at the President’s Home. From Left to Right: Dr. Frank Cheatham, Dr. Joseph Owens, Congressman Ed Whitfield (KY-1st District), Dr. Michael Carter, myself, Mrs. Paula Smith, Dr. Mark Bradley

For the past year, I have had the great honor as serving as the Campbellsville Univ. Faculty Forum Chair.  With only 5 years of faculty experience, I was completely shocked to be asked to serve on this role.  There are many qualified, experienced, and much more adept faculty members at Campbellsville Univ., but I was asked nevertheless.

I’ve learned when an opportunity is presented, you can either accept the task and try to rise to the occasion or run from it.  In this instance, I chose to walk through the door and allow God to grow me through the experience.  And God certainly had some leadership tests along the way.

We began the school year in difficult days.  Prior to the start of classes, the university family lost two dear members of the staff.  While a new school year should feel hopeful and full of anticipation, there was a shadow of darkness and grief over us all.  When two employees pass in the prime of their lives, it is hard to understand.  One of those beloved saints was my next door office buddy, Mr. Paul Dameron, a Druien Hall brother.  I still miss hearing his booming voice coming through our paper-thin walls.

The fall semester progressed with both ups and downs.  Great enrollment on the main campus, yet some programs (including several that I oversee) took a dip.  But we pressed on and tried to rely on God’s grace, good decision making, wise counsel, and see every challenge as opportunity for improvement.

The December Faculty Forum meeting included the announcement that Dr. Frank Cheatham, who has served at CU for 41 years, would be retiring at the end of 2014.  If you want a picture of faithful, steady, integrity-filled leadership over the long haul, Dr. Cheatham would be that picture.  I love being able to say Dr. Cheatham has been my professor, my boss boss, and now a friend and mentor.

The spring semester culminated in our SACSCOC 10 year accreditation visit.  This evaluation process for academic institutions is rigorous and extensive.  We were thrilled to hear we came through in very good shape.

The year ended in the commencement services over the weekend.  As faculty chair, I was invited to offer the benediction prayer.  It occurred to me on Saturday during the undergraduate ceremony that it has been 15 years (almost to the day) since I walked across that grey, noisy stage in J.K. Powell Athletic Center.

In 15 years, I went from being a student in the seats anxious to receive my diploma, to the CU Faculty Chair seated on the platform watching my students receive theirs. This included one of my Ed. Min. students doing a standing back-flip on the stage and nearly causing me to have a heart attack.  (Thanks Rico!)

Fifteen years from one seat to the another.  This, to me, is absolutely unbelievable.  I am so thankful and humbled.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured what God might do.  To serve my school, my alma mater, my fellow colleagues, and my God in this role of leadership has been such a blessing.

Thank you Lord for opening doors for the most unqualified, undeserving, ill-equipped academic leader in training.