The Great 8:28: Eight Years in Review

Eight years ago (July, 2008), my family and I felt God’s call to leave our beloved Main Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, KY to serve in the Campbellsville University School of Theology.  I can’t believe it has been 8 years.  I still dream about Cincinnati chili and wonder who has claimed my Red’s clergy pass.

During these 8 past years, I have been so honored to serve alongside 7 churches as transitional pastor: Parkway Baptist, Bethany Baptist, Living Grace Church (2xs), Lancaster Baptist, Hurstbourne Baptist, Stanford Baptist, and Monticello First Baptist. We also were invited to do short preaching stints at Pleasant Grove Baptist & Hodgenville Christian.

We had no idea that transitional ministry was going to be God’s plan for us to stay connected in local church ministry all the while teaching full-time in the classroom at CU.

For three years, I traveled the country on the LifeWay Kids VBS training tour and for the past 5 years been a content developer and camp pastor for LifeWay CentriKid Camps.  These ministry opportunities still amaze me.  I am so unqualified to represent such a top-quality national ministry.

In the School of Theology, I’ve been so blessed to teach amazing students, travel to Israel and Jordan (2xs), Greece, and Turkey, and work with some of the most encouraging people on the planet.

Then, starting in 2015, God opened the door for me to try my hand at academic administration as the Dean of Online Education.  Again, I am humbled by the chance to stretch my leadership wings and explore what it means to lead & teach in the Christian university setting.

Over the past 5 years, Jennifer (my beautiful wife and ministry tag-team partner) started, finished and graduated with her Ph.D. in Family Ministry from Southern Seminary and began her teaching career also in the Campbellsville University School of Theology.  When we left Main Street 8 years ago, this idea wasn’t even in our wildest dreams.

Most importantly, above all else, both of our handsome, strapping sons have trusted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior and have followed Him in believer’s baptism.

Isaac surrendered to Christ during a worship service at Hurstbourne BC saying during the invitation to his mother, “Momma, I need to be saved.”  He was baptized a few weeks later.

Ethan prayed to trust Christ during VBS at Campbellsville BC while his Momma was explaining the Gospel to the children.  He was baptized a year later in Monticello FBC.

We praise God for His work in the lives of our sons.

Eight years.  2008-2016.  Wow, what a ride.

In a few weeks, we will finish transitional pastorate #8.  And the question of “where next” is upon us.  But we are holding fast to the GREAT 8:28 from Romans 8:28.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

Wherever He leads, we will go knowing that God’s amazing purpose for our lives is for our good.

He has worked.  He is working.  He will continue to work all things together for our good.

Delayed Adulthood = Delayed Discernment of Call

twixters

Photo from Time Magazine. Jan. 2005.

Have you ever experienced something you don’t want to be true, but in your heart of hearts you know that it has already happened?  Have you ever observed a visible, tangible shift in the tides and wanted desperately for them to stop shifting out from underneath you?

Every single day, serving, teaching, coaching, mentoring 18-22 year olds on a Christian college campus in the middle of the Bible belt, I see the shift.  It is real and present and there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.

I haven’t heard anyone speak about it.  I haven’t seen anything published on it.  I haven’t even had conversations about it, except with a few of my closest colleagues. Nevertheless, I know it is there.  I know it is happening.  I know it is going to impact local churches and theological education for the coming generation.

What is it?  What is the shift I am so concerned about?  Here is my purely anecdotal hypothesis:

I firmly believe the prolonging of adolescence and the corresponding delay of entrance into adulthood is radically impacting Christian young people from hearing, discerning, and surrendering to the call of vocational ministry.

I recently heard Dr. Meg Meeker, M.D., founder of The Strong Parent Project and author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters share research that the new entrance into adulthood is 25 years old.

For previous generations, it was much younger.  For the Builders and Boomers, it was 18 when you could vote, move out, and be drafted.  For Gen. X, it was 21 when you finished college and could legally drink.  For Millennials, it has shifted again to 25 years old when a young adult is finished with college, maybe finished with grad school, and is getting established in their first career position.

This change has been recognized by many, especially educators and employers of younger adults.  We see it everyday.  Calling an 20 years old an adult is socially correct because they are not kids and calling them such is offensive.  The label teenager is so passe.  Putting the “you are an adult” spin on it helps a bit, but they don’t feel like an adult.  They have no desire to be an adult at this stage.  Adulthood is some far off, distant experience that comes after you get out of college, find a job, possibly get married and have to pay real world bills.

This delay touches all sorts of things in our society.  It touches the economy.  It touches the first-time home buyers age.  It significantly touches the thought of marriage and parenting.

We have more students in graduate school than ever before.  More young adults living at home with their parents for years after finishing college.  More young adults pushing back repayment of their student loans because they can’t find adequate employment in the struggling job market.  There are jobs to be had, but they don’t pay enough to support independence.

The delay also touches something near and dear to my heart: hearing, discerning and surrendering to God’s call for vocational ministry.

When mature, faithful, Christian college students are considering their career and future, I am fervently praying God will speak to their hearts about the possibility of surrendering to the call to vocational ministry.  Whether in cross-cultural missions, church planting, church revitalization, pastoral leadership, kids ministry, student ministry, non-profit work, community restoration, para-church organizations or any  type of kingdom-building work.

But if they are not entering adulthood until 25, I believe they are struggling to consider, to discern, to surrender to the call God may be putting on their life.

As they are delayed in their social, emotional, economical, psychological maturity, I see a corresponding delay in their spiritual maturity.  I find this to be particular true among Christian young men.

The problem I face is that I teach Christian ministry and leadership to primarily 18-22 year old college students.  That is my mission.  That is what I believe God has called me to do in this world.  But I am seeing less and less of them stroll through our hallways and into my classroom.

I wonder if any other Christian college theology or ministry professor is seeing the same phenomenon among their students.

Pulpit, Podium, Music Stand or Bistro Table

When you enter a church for worship, what piece of furniture do you expect to find on the elevated platform?  What you expect to find often speaks to what you believe about the importance and role of the preaching and teaching ministries in the local church.

When I say platform furniture, I am speaking of the wooden, metal, or Plexiglas structure that the pastor/teacher uses during the message.  I am talking about the pulpit, podium, lectern, or other make shift device that they stand behind.  Some call it the sacred desk; others refer to it as the hunk of wood that will never go away.

These furniture pieces have changed dramatically in the last 20 years.  These days you basically have eight options to choose from.

pulpit potters house

The Potter’s House Pulpit. Dallas, TX

1. The Wooden Pulpit.  The wooden pulpit can be natural, stained or painted wood.  It is usually equipped with a hidden storage space, sometimes a clock, maybe even a lamp.

The wooden pulpit establishes a high view of preaching authority.  Since the Reformation, wooden pulpits have been placed front and center to project the importance of the preaching/teaching moment in the worship service.  In predominately African-American churches, pulpit are becoming larger and more elaborate.

2.  The Plexiglas Pulpit.  plexiglas pulpitFor those who wanted to move away from the behemoth wooden pulpit, the Plexiglas pulpit became the preferred choice.  It was lighter, easier to move, and allowed for the church logo to be etched in the front, creating a branding opportunity.

The Plexiglas pulpit is see-through, breaking down some of the distance between the pew and the pulpit.  For the first time in years, you could see the pastor’s legs while they preached.  It was meant to make the pastor more tangible, more human, more accessible.

3.  The Cellphone Tower.  A new addition to modern pulpit design is what a dear friend of mine calls “The Cellphone Tower.”  This pulpit is portable, modern, and gives the appearance of being industrial.  It basically a podium made of piping or stage rigging.

cellphone towerBoth the Plexiglas Pulpit and the Cellphone Tower communicate something different than the Wooden Pulpit. They communicate innovation and an appeal to close the gap between the preacher and the pew.  Most pastors bemoan the large, wooden pulpit and tend to move out from behind it while they preach.  They believe coming out from behind the pulpit make a closer connection with their hearers.  These newer designed pulpits attempt to do the same thing.

4. The Music Stand.  The thought behind this piece of furniture is ease and utility.  The music stand is already on stage, nearly invisible and projects that the sermon/message is more about the communicator than anything else.

Consider the musician or soloist who uses the music stand for their sheet music – no one notices the stand, they focus on the artist.  The same thought is at work when the pastor preaches with a music stand – focus on the message, not the furniture.

5.  The iPad Pulpit.  ipad pulpitEven newer than the cellphone tower, the iPad Pulpit has entered the church marketplace as more and more pastors toss out the paper notes and go fully digital.  This pulpit looks sleek, modern, and like a control panel on the USS Enterprise.

As with the music stand, the iPad Pulpit places more focus on the communicator than the furniture piece itself.  It can be moved to and from the platform with ease, making transitions seamless, perfect when the stage hand has to place stage props or move band instruments.

For younger generations, the idea of packing a leather-bound Bible to church and scribbling out notes with pen and paper may seem antiquated.  Everything is digital these days.  Open your Bible app, use Notes to keep ideas, Tweet good ideas.  If the hearers in the pew are going digital, maybe the pastor should as well.

bistro table6. The Bistro Table.  In the world of conversation and dialogue, a new pulpit concept has emerged.  Enter the Bistro Table.  The bistro table says to the hearers, “Welcome. Pull up a chair.  Let’s chat.  No judgment.  No tradition.  Just conversation.” 

Bistro tables are present in your local restaurant or sports bar, why not at church.  They are cheap, sleek, and very easy to move. They are high enough to hold your notes and Bible with without problems seeing what you’ve written down.

As with the music stand and iPad pulpit, the view of the preacher/teachers is more casual and laid back.  No suit and tie.  No formal robes and vestments.  We are here to worship God and to be in community together.  There is no better way to communicate community than to preach with a restaurant table.

7.  The High Chair and Monitor.  Tossing aside the podium, lectern, stand or table, the high chair and flat panel monitor are growing in popularity.  Probably made most famous by Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church, this removes the pulpit furniture altogether and embraces a communicator-teacher-presenter effect.

The pastor/teacher interacts with the stage props, the audience, and the monitor all in real time.  There are no notes, no Bible, no manuscript. The message is memorized and rehearsed. The sermon is a talk.  The pastor is the presenter.  This is conference style communication. There probably isn’t much of an invitation or call to publicly repent, but that is not the design of the service.

Andy Stanley

8.  Nothing at all.  Consider the apostles, the disciples, or Jesus himself who preached to thousands with no platform furniture at all.  No pulpit.  No cellphone tower.  No monitor.  The founders of our faith preached on hillsides, from fishing boats, seating in synagogues and in open public squares.  They preached without notes, without furniture, without iPads, yet they preached with passion, vitality, and full of God’s spirit.

All in all, whatever platform furniture piece you use, remember these items are not essential, nor are they sinful.  They are tools to use.

Simply put: don’t let platform furniture become a sacred idol.  We can preach the Gospel with or without them and be perfectly biblical and Spirit-led.

Cross Vocational Ministry Demands Organization Skills

cross vocationalIn recent months, my role as a cross vocational minister has changed. If you are not familiar with the term “cross vocational,” it’s because I made it up.

Cross vocational ministry is my invented term for what was once called bi-vocational ministry.

I prefer the term cross vocational because the ministry leader has an everyday, normal job and a ministry calling which are constantly crossing over one another.  At times, the day job is the primary focus and at other times, the ministry role is primary. The cross vocational minister is constantly attempting to balance the two.

I also like the idea of “cross” vocational in the implication of Jesus Christ, who went to the cross, dying for sin, making a bridge for mankind to “cross” over from death to life.

In recent days, my day job at Campbellsville University has become quite a bit more demanding. After seven years of full-time teaching faculty, I have now taken on a role in academic administration in addition to teaching.  Whereas faculty members have flexibility in their weekly teaching schedule, academic administration is more of a 40 hours per week, 8 to 5, kind of job.

What I am now facing is what most cross vocational ministers have faced for years.  They work a full-time job, then switch, or cross over, to the ministry in early mornings, evenings and on weekends.  The time demands are pressing when it comes to sermon preparation, church leadership, communicating vision, and attempting to perform some level of outreach and pastoral care.

The main lesson I am learning in balancing these demands is that organization and preparation must be way in advance.  Time is limited in a full daily schedule, therefore the cross vocational minister must use every free moment to be planning, preparing, and working far in advance.

You never know when your schedule is going to change at the day job.  You might be called in for training or need to make a business trip or be given an assignment that must be finished by Friday. In order to meet these demands and the ministry tasks, you have to utilize every tool available to be organized, prepared and focused.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered for organization and preparation in cross vocational ministry.

1. Use your breaks wisely such as Christmas break, spring break, or long holiday weekends.  Use these extra days off to plan ahead.  I know there are other things on your agenda, but this “free” day might be enough to prepare several sermons or put together a major outreach effort.

2. Be constantly taking notes and jotting down ideas.  Use your smart phone or iPad to track thoughts that might come at the gym, on the road, at a lunch break, or even in the shower.   Carry a ministry journal with you everywhere working on upcoming sermons or to-do lists for ministry projects.  Pack a few blank note cards with you and when you are waiting for a haircut or a doctor’s appointment, write a note to a new member or a family that is struggling.

3. Communicate using web-based tools.  Use group emails, group texts, and group document sharing tools to keep everyone in the loop.  The more you communicate digitally, the more your team (who is probably cross vocational as well) will be able to do their work without a face to face meeting.  Social media and email can also help you connect to the wider church family without being “physically” present for everything.

4. Plan worship services collaboratively using Planning Center Online (planningcenteronline.com).  If you are the primary teaching pastor (as I am), use Planning Center Online to let other worship leaders including your worship minister, media team, vocalist, ushers, etc., know what you are planning far in advance.  You might not get the opportunity to do a sit-down worship planning meeting, but at least they will know where you are going and what you are expecting weeks (or months) in advance.

I plan on writing more this week about cross vocational ministry and several new implications for this type of ministry in the days to come.  From all indicators, cross vocational ministry is going to intensify and grow in the coming decade.

The 6 Gotta-Haves in Student Ministry Today

ministry_logo-01In a few days, I have the privilege of representing the Campbellsville Univ. School of Theology at the 2015 Winter Jam Tour “Jam Zone” at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.

Thousands of students, leaders, parents and ministry volunteers will descend upon Lexington to hear great Christian artists in a one-of-a-kind concert venue.  I have been to Winter Jam numerous times as a youth pastor and volunteer and have always had a blast.  We are bringing our boys this year…and ear plugs.

During the Jam Zone, I have chance to spend time encouraging parents and leaders in a training session called “The 6 Gotta-Haves in Student Ministry Today.”  This session is designed to encourage, inform and equip parents and leaders while they are waiting for the concert to begin that evening.

To be truthful, I am a little nervous.  I have been out of the student ministry game for sometime. The last time I can say I was an official youth minister on a church staff was 2003.  That’s 12 years in the rear-view mirror.  Wow, time has flown by.

Even though I teach a Youth Ministry class every two years at CU, I am recognizing how quickly student ministry is changing around me.  I do my best to stay up on all the changes, reading books, engaging in the online discussion, tracking trends and demographics, yet I still find myself scratching my head when someone asks, “What do we need to do to reach teenagers today?”

So to frame that answer (and prepared for the upcoming conference), I believe I would reply “You gotta-have six ‘Gs.’  Six gotta-haves in student ministry today.

1.  GUTS – Student ministry is not for the faint at heart.  You have to have passion, conviction, courage, and determination to enter into this ministry field.  Teenagers and their parents can be wonderful to serve, but they can also be complicated and complex to understand.

2.  GAMEPLAN – Student ministry does not work without a strategy, a calendar, and a system of organization.  Unfortunately many student pastors have attempted and failed to lead their students by the seat of their pants.  In the end, the students are frustrated.  The parents are put out.  The church staff is wondering how to move this leader on.  Nobody wins, everyone looses. So we much have a plan.  Work the plan.  Adjust the plan.  Evaluate the plan.

3.  G-PAs & G-MAs (aka Grandparents) or better yet GENERATIONS –  You gotta-have other generations speaking into the lives of our students.  Our American culture is fragmenting young people more and more.  They desperately need intergenerational relationships to grow up more balanced and capable of social interaction.  There is no question, students need their parents to be invested in their lives.  However, they also need other wise, non-family relationships just as much.  One of the great failures of youth ministry of the 90’s & early 2000’s was isolation from other generations.  Thank goodness we have corrected that terrible mistake.

4.  GOALS – Along with the game plan, student ministry leaders must have goals they are working toward.  Ministry leadership is easily swayed by the emergencies of life and the bumps along the road resulting in leaders who cannot stay focused, cannot complete a task, and cannot work through a to-do list.  Those “interruptions” are part of the deal; everyone in ministry knows this.  But quality leadership also requires diligence, excellence, and persistence. Having 3-5 God-directed goals each year helps focus your attention and your mission.

5.  GOSPEL – This should really be first on the list.  You must have a ministry centered in the Good News of Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation.  We gotta-have the Gospel that clearly states God is holy, we are sinful, and Jesus is the only answer.  In a world of rampant relativism, pluralism, secularism, postmodernism, and every other “ism” you can imagine, student ministry leaders can never shy away from the Gospel of Jesus.  It is why we do what we do.

6.  GROUP – The term “youth group” seems out-dated and cheesy to many of us.  We always wanted our student ministries to be more than just a “group” of kids that met in the church basement and played a bunch of games.  We wanted the student ministry to have substance, meaning, purpose, intentionality and value to the larger congregation and the kingdom of God.

Yet, no matter how much you dislike the word, the student ministry still needs to be a group.  A group that is open to unbelieving students.  A group that is welcoming to parents and grandparents.  A group that is focused on discipling younger believers toward maturity in Christ.  A group that find strength from being together.  A group where honest questions can be asked and honest answers given in return.  A group that functions within the larger body of the church, but also has a uniqueness to it as it ministers to teenagers.

As much as we may want to get away from the word “group,” student ministry is still a very important group within the family of God.

Six gotta-haves.  Guts.  Gameplan.  Generations.  Goals.  Gospel.  Group.  This is what I will be sharing at Winter Jam.  I hope the leaders are encouraged and challenged.

__________________________
G-words that didn’t make the list and probably should be banned from student ministry altogether: gimmicks, goofiness, gag-gifts, and game-show host youth ministers.

Personal Journeys Off the Map

vbs 2015The LifeWay Christian Resources VBS (vacation Bible school) theme for 2015 is “Journey Off the Map.”  The  theme captures the heart of adventure, unchartered territories, unknown places and dangerous challenges. I have been on the road with LifeWay the last couple weeks and have loved challenging leaders about what it means to follow God on a journey into the unknown.

The theme has got me thinking.  What is it about human nature that loves a good journey?  Why are we drawn to adventure novels, movies and stories?  Why do little boys and girls love to pretend to find hidden treasures in the backyard that can only be discovered with an ancient map?

Apparently God has implanted the desire for journey into our soul.

As I look back on my life, I have been on some great journeys.  They may not seem great to Mt. Everest climbers or Appalachian Trail trekkers, but they have been amazing journeys for me.

Short-term international mission trips have been a journey.  Places like the Sinai desert of Egypt, the ancient city of Xian, China, all through rugged Latin America and modernized Europe.

The chance to go on three Bible land tours has been a journey.  Walking where Jesus, Peter, Paul, Luke, Timothy, Titus walked has been a real adventure.

Leaving my home in KY and moving to Dallas/Fort Worth for seminary was a huge journey.  Saying good-bye to the familiarity and comfort of the Bluegrass state in lieu of full dependence on God and willingness to do whatever He called me to do in the Lone Star state.  Looking back, that journey was really hard but ABSOLUTELY worth every minute.  Without leaving, I don’t believe I would have grown as much as I did.

There have been more relational journeys that have been just as adventurous.  Marriage has been a wild journey.  Standing with and loving my wife of nearly 13 years has been a journey into uncharted waters.  Parenting two sons has been a great journey.  Watching them grow, learn, explore has been filled with adventure, and at times, chaos.

Teaching and walking alongside college students has been a glorious journey. Seeing them walk into college fresh, eager, green and hopefully leaving more matures equipped, discipled, trained and properly launched.

There is one student, in particular, that has been a journey to say the least.  From his entrance into our lives four years ago to his recent exit, he has completely transformed.  There is still more for God to do, but the difference is radical.

I love the journey.  I love the adventure into the unknown. I love letting God Almighty set the course and take me and my family anywhere He wants us to go.  I wonder what journeys lie ahead.

Collegiate Ministry Students – Don’t Waste Your Christmas Break

keep-calm-and-make-it-to-christmas-break-120It was Christmas break 1996 – that wonderful four weeks off in the midst of the college academic year – when God’s call came crashing down on my life.

Having spent the previous summer as a summer youth director in a local church and swearing that I would never have anything to do with local church ministry ever again, I felt the rush of God’s Spirit break through my frustration and disobedience so that I finally surrendered to His divine call.

The actual date was December 28, 1996.  Nearly 20 years ago.

The college Christmas break is truly a winter wonderland.  Whereas elementary, middle and high school students have roughly 10 days off, college students have nearly a month in-between semesters.  This long break allows some students to squeeze in a J-term class, but most stay at home and veg out with family and friends.

For collegiate ministry students, I suggest you use your Christmas break differently.  I suggest you take this time away from classes and books and put it to use for God’s glory and for your future in Christian ministry.

Here are a few suggestions of things you can do over the break.

1.  Reconnect with your home church.  Offer to sing in the choir.  Be a part of the Christmas Eve service.  Ask to fill in for anyone out on vacation in the youth or children’s ministry.  If you are feeling a call to pastoral ministry, offer to preach a Sunday evening service for your pastor or cover one of the Wednesday night small groups.  Offer to go and serve communion in a nursing home or to shut-in members.

At the minimum, ask one of your pastors if you can shadow them for a day or two to learn.  Fold bulletins in the church office or sweep floors in the food pantry.  Get your hands dirty in some ministry function, even if it seems like nothing at the time, I promise you it is something in the kingdom.

2.  Update your ministry resume.  A ministry resume is more than a simple piece of paper describing your education and past experience, it is, in many cases, your first impression to a church or para-church ministry.  Therefore it is not something to be slopped together in one sitting.  It should be created and updated with excellence and diligence.  The Christmas break is the perfect time to sink some significant time into this document.

For help on this task, I have written several posts offering tips on creating solid ministry resumes. Find them here, here and here.

3.  Setup your summer ministry internship.  During the break, make a few calls, schedule a Skype meeting, even make a visit to the location of your summer ministry internship.  Talk at length with your intended supervisor.  See if there is anything that you need to prepare for during the spring semester.

Collegiate ministry students must, and I can’t emphasis must enough, take advantage of every summer to serve somewhere in ministry.  Three good summers in ministry will nearly assure you a ministry placement upon graduation.

4.  Visit a seminary.  Even if you are not considering seminary at the present time, make a visit anyway.  Take the tour.  Make a day trip out of it.  It will at least get you out of the house and possibly open your mind up to the possibility of theological education.  If you are already planning to go to seminary, these visits are huge in helping you discern God’s will for where you are to study.

I suggest to my students visiting at least three seminaries before making a final decision.  You can’t get the ethos or vibe of a school just by visiting a website or browsing a brochure, you must get on campus and pray onsite with insight.

5.  Network. Network. Network.  There is nothing more important in ministry placement these days than building your ministry network.  We all know the cliché, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”  I would add, “It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you.”

Invite a ministry leader, denominational representative, former pastor, retired chaplain or missionary, whatever ministry you are feeling called to, to lunch.  Ask them question after question.  Bring a notebook and take copious notes or ask if you can record the conversation on your phone.  Before the lunch, write 10-15 good, thoughtful, insightful questions and then fire away.  Make it more about them and their experience than puffing yourself up.

If possible, do this a couple times over the break.  Most leaders, even if you offer to pay, will want to help a poor ministry student out and will pick up the check.  In the end, you glean from their knowledge, build your ministry network, and possibly even develop a new friendship and mentor in the ministry.

All in all, college ministry students, don’t waste your Christmas break.  Use it wisely and purposefully.  Besides, you can play Call of Duty and catch up on Netflix when you get back to campus.  This might be your only shot to get out in the world and make those critical ministry connections for the long haul.

LifeWay VBS Institutes and Previews Round 3

LifeWay VBS 2015 - Journey Off the Map

LifeWay VBS 2015 – Journey Off the Map

I am so thrilled to be back on the road again in January 2015 joining the wonderful LifeWay VBS team as we travel to three cities training thousands of volunteer leaders for this summer’s Vacation Bible School (VBS).

LifeWay’s VBS Institute and Preview events are really unlike anything I had ever been exposed to.  Imagine 500-700 VBS junkies filing into an auditorium excited and joyful about reaching out to spiritual orphans and families with the message of the Gospel.  For them, this is the Super Bowl of their summer.

They pray for, plan, prepare and organize all year long for this week of intense outreach and teaching.  They go all out in making every opportunity available for families and children to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a fun and creative way.

I am truly inspired by these heroes of the faith.  They give me hope knowing that I stand with thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ willing to go the extra mile in spreading the Gospel of Jesus to kids.  They believe, as I do, that young ones can hear, trust, and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and commit their lives to him fully.  .

We will be in three cities this year:

  • Jan. 9-10 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest, NC
  • Jan.16-17 at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX
  • Jan. 22-24 at the LifeWay headquarters in Nashville, TN.

For more information on the VBS Preview events, click here.

A Local Phenomenon

A Local Phenomenon.  Written by Haley Dallas. Educational Ministries student.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

The local “ring by spring” phenomenon is all but new to the students of Campbellsville University. This idea of getting engaged and settling down quickly seems to spread like wildfire when you step foot on this Christian campus.

But how local is this “local phenomenon” and why do we seem to obsess over its importance?  When a students makes the transition from high school to college they are faced with numerous new changes. These students have a new emotional and physical independence because of the distance they now have between them and the people that have taken care of them for years. Even kids that stay at home for college experience a new sense of taking control of their future. The parental unit these students have had holding their hands and walking them through this life thus far are now backing away and loosening their grips. This new independence leaves the college age student asking themselves “What is my next step.”

Many students at state colleges begin to find their identities in the major they have chosen or the sport they play or the organization they have pledged the next four years to. At a Christian university, students are thrown into an environment conducive to finding your identity in God and his love for us. This environment teaches a sense of community and love for each other that is not found widely at the larger state schools.

The Christian life is a huge advocate for “partners” and “teams.” We are taught about accountability partners and Adam and Eve and even the importance of the relationship between a husband and wife. For a Christian, the verse in Corinthians is a well known and used part of scripture. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends,” 1st Corinthians 13:4-9.

This verse can be used to make love and marriage seem like a wonderful way to spend your life. Secular and Christian culture both see this verse plastered on shirts, tattoos, websites, and Valentine’s Day cards. It is used in Sunday school teachings when portraying how to treat our fellow man and in small groups discussing the way to love your significant other. Bearing in mind the importance of this one verse on our secular and churched culture, you can only imagine how our Christian brothers and sisters are impacted by the plethora of verses just like this one modeling the importance and the greatness of love.

If I were to try and pinpoint one reason why the seeming obsession with early engagement is so prevalent at my little Christian college, and at all Christian colleges like it I would be at a loss. There are so many important factors that contribute to our love for love. The insane whirlwind of emotions and stressors and godly people mixed with the environment that is teaching us to work together and love one another and love our God seems to be the perfect recipe for a great relationship. We are taught to base our marriages and relationships on God and I don’t think there is a better place to start a godly unity than on a Christian campus, studying what you love, learning about God, and growing together.

I don’t think there is any sort of extra “rush” to get married on a Christian campus. I do believe firmly that a Christian campus is unwillingly creating the perfect environment for two God loving people to fall for each other and desire to start their lives together as soon as they can.

Do I Have to Get the Ring by Spring?

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Do I Have to Get the Ring by Spring?  Written by Joey Bomia. Senior Educational Ministries student.

Why are Christian college students more likely to get married after they graduate or soon after graduation? Is it possible that ones who are receiving their education from the Christian university rather than the state university feel pressured into marriage? I’ve noticed many of my peers and college friends have their weddings soon after graduation, so what is it that makes this “ring by spring” phenomenon seem so prevalent on Christian universities?

First off, it is not that they are forced into the marriage relationship. However, they desire to have that commitment one day and will there ever be a better time than when there are thousands of Christian singles all around you? Probably not. I’ve noticed a couple of pressures that may rush students into this big decision. Here are a few reasons why they want to have that relationship and to have it post-graduation.

1   The sexual pressure is a real deal. Sexual relations and encounters are the biggest temptation of sin that the young man and woman face. College is where the “hook-ups”, “one night stands”, and “friends with benefits” all run rampant across campuses everywhere. It’s the time where freedom from parents and restrictions create doors that the Christian student shouldn’t be opening.  Many will and have rushed into their wedding ceremony because they want to have sex with each other. That sounds blunt, but it’s the truth. Purity is important to some students. They will rush into this commitment to save it.

2.  Christian students see more importance and value on marriage. The reality of spending the rest of your life with someone may seem scary for some, but I think it is very appealing to the young college student especially to the Christian one. Christian students have grown up seeing biblical examples of marriage everywhere. When they picture the future, they see a family. It’s almost seen as non-biblical to the Christian single if they don’t pursue the marriage relationship.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” Genesis 2:24

3. There is a degree of “I’ve gotta fix this.”  All of us know the devastating statistic that 1 in 2 marriages will end in a divorce. Our society has lost the respect and commitment to the marriage relationship. I think the Christian college student desires to have a healthy, Christ-centered marriage that will last “until death do us part.” Many students in this generation have come from broken homes and split marriages; they want to see a better future for themselves.

4.  Fear of forever singleness. The thought of being alone and single forever scares people. There may not be a more opportune time to tie the protection and stability knot. There is that chance of not finding anyone that you want to spend the rest of your life with and I think many are dreading that thought on campuses everywhere. Why is the marriage commitment so surreal on the Christian campus?  It’s all about how students picture marriage. Christian students view marriage as an example of the Gospel and the relationship between Jesus and His bride. Non-Christian students view marriage as a restriction. They would rather receive the full benefits of cohabitation rather than being in full commitment to one person.

5.  Ministry and the church make the single feel uncomfortable. The single will be consumed by a congregation full of couples. Some churches won’t hire ministers if they aren’t married. Members of the church will begin to try hooking-up the young single with people. There are many classes in the church for couples, family, etc., but a lack of outreach to the young single. Single ministers lack the support that a spouse will give. All of these are more reason for the young single college student to get married.

This is a commitment that should be taken with much diligence, prayer, and discernment from Almighty God. One that many take lightly and should be taken with much carefulness. I pray for the young college student who decides to get married and that marriage would be God honoring to those all around.

Racing to a Ring

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Collegiate Christians’ Race for the Ring.  Written by Meg Brown.  Junior Educational Ministries & Public Relations student.

Buzzing silently amongst the daily lives of Christian college students in America is an unspoken, but well-understood topic. Guys and gals alike stir in their stands on the topic of: marriage. What? I can hear the laughter you’re trying to suppress right now, and trust me, you’ve read that correctly. The hot topic on the minds of college-aged Christians right now, and just about this time every year, seems to be the “Ring by Spring” phenomena.

While most college students are concerned with the upcoming football game or next Thursday’s party, there’s a small group who are in pursuit of something different. While by the end of their college years, most students look to find a job and begin a hopefully successful transition into adulthood, there is a growing trend among Christians in this age group who are seeking to accelerate this process by means of marriage. My question is, “Christians, why the hurry?”

The differences between Christian and state colleges are a large, wide-spread variety, but this one topic drives the divide deep, as it’s not a housing rule or application requirement we’re talking about, but a mindset. Why is the rush to engagement on Christian college campuses and not on the grounds of secular state schools? Here are a few potential factors I’ve found:

Prolonged Adolescence.  In today’s society, irresponsible adolescence is stretching farther than ever before. This shift in lifestyle has not yet displayed its full effects, but the current college-age generation will differ from the ones before it more drastically than ever before because of it. While the idea of sleeping in your parents’ basement for free aids in the process of paying off debt, this has a negative impact on our college-aged grads.

With this knowledge in mind, Christians seem to be on the hunt for something different. The reasoning behind this is still a little fuzzy; whether it be to follow, biblically, the ideals of family and marriage, or to simply avoid the unnecessarily long courtship, Christian college students are “Putting a Ring on It” faster than Beyoncé can utter the lyric.

Hook Up Culture.   If there was/is a “biblical” way of dating, the principles to which the average college relationship is guided by bears little to no resemblance to that “way.” Instead, thanks to apps like Tinder, social media such as Twitter or Facebook, and the immediate response mindset received from text messaging, college-aged relationships more closely fall to the “Hook Up” description.

Whatever you want to call them, these relationships blatantly display my generation’s lack of self-control, need for immediate gratification, and sure lack of commitment, all of which stand in stark contrast of what Christians are called to in the Way of Christ. Therefore, Christian college students choose to swim against the current and just do relationships differently.

Slim Pickin’s.  This is where I feel the weight of this pressure that Christian college students feel may lay. Though the “hook up” culture is prevalent, and prolonged adolescence is also unattractive, many college-aged Christians have the sense that there’s just no one else out there. The idea of going on to the next stage of life and ministry as a “single” is too terrifying for many to digest. We all want love and, while young and single and surrounded by such a pool of young and single Christians, surely you could find someone do life with, right?

The Christian community sometimes places added emphasis on married couples, leaving the college-aged group in fear of being sent to a “Singles Retreat” or even a separate Sunday class based on their relationship status. Apart from this divide we see on college campuses, there is a divide in churches today on this issue. Even the language we use is evident of this truth. Check out this blog http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/single-satisfied-and-sent-mission-for-the-not-yet-married for more on the “not-yet-married” stage of life. This talk places Christians in a posture of solitary separation or scrambled searching if you find yourself in the “not-yet-married” category.

Our subculture has been conditioned to believe that marriage is a goal, thus losing the greater vision of God’s will on our lives. I am not one to say marriage is bad, or that it is not worth seeking and striving towards, but that is only if marriage is what God has called us to in life. Please, brothers and sisters, let us not be bought into the haste and pressure that this “Ring by Spring” mentality has brought us.

The Ring by Spring Phenomenon

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Photo: The Ring By Spring movie. Hallmark channel.

Are Christian college students who attend college on the Christian college campus more likely to get married immediately after or soon after graduating than those attending state colleges?  Do Christian college students on the Christian college campus feel pressured to rush into marriage faster than their secular, state school peers?  Is there some reason they feel they must find their mate before leaving the Christian college environment or face difficulties afterwards?

Some call this the “Ring by Spring” phenomenon or “getting your MRS. degree.”  It is the norm on many Christian college campuses and I want to discover why.

So over the next several days, several of my Christian college students who attend a small, rural Christian college here in the middle of the Bible Belt are going to weigh in on the “Ring by Spring” phenomenon.  Their thoughts and ideas will be unedited and raw.

I want to learn from them.  I want you to learn from them.  I think you are going to find their analysis on this phenomenon fascinating.  Stay tuned.

 

Serving. Changing the World.

SERVING.  CHANGING THE WORLD.
Mary Kate Young, left, of Paris, Ky., at head of table, and Emma Calvert of Scottsville, Ky., lead a workshop for church leaders at Campbellsville University.  (Campbellsville University Photo by Candice Boone)

Mary Kate Young, left, of Paris, Ky., at head of table, and Emma Calvert of Scottsville, Ky., lead a workshop for church leaders at Campbellsville University.
(Campbellsville University Photo by Candice Boone)

by Candice Boone, Campbellsville Unviersity Student News WriterCAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. — Students and faculty from Campbellsville University’s School of Theology and School of Music hosted a workshop recently titled “Making the Pieces Fit.”

“The purpose of this workshop was to serve and equip church leaders and volunteers in the rapidly changing world of technology in ministry,” said Dr. Shane Garrison, associate professor of educational ministries and director of theology online.

“Churches, in our modern day, have to be fully functional in online marketing, graphic design, social media and desktop publishing. Every church has a mission given by God. We want to help them communicate and achieve that mission.”

There were 12 churches present with 28 total participants. The churches represented at the workshop included churches from Taylor, Adair, Russell, Whitley, Breckinridge, Hart and Green counties.

Students led most of the workshops with the exception of the sound and lighting design led by Robert Bender, CU coordinator of audio and visual services.

Among the workshops offered were: Stage Craft and Set Design, led by Fred Hoagland of Falls of Rough, Ky. Clayton Brooks of Bardstown, Ky., worship arts major, and Drew O’Neal of Campbellsville, educational ministries major, led a workshop titled Worship Presentation Software and Design. Leading the Church Web Design and Podcasting workshop was mass communication student Josh McCoin of Frankfort, Ky. and educational ministries major, Chris Wright of Williamsburg, Ky.

In the second round of workshops there was Print Publishing led by educational ministries major Emma Calvert of Scottsville, Ky. and worship arts major Mary Kate Young of Paris, Ky., was held for Social Media Integration was led by educational ministries major Jon Kattus of Versailles, Ky., and worship arts major Devan Bishop of Columbia, Ky.

Garrison said, “I was personally very proud of our student presenters. Their topics were relevant, informative and professional. They shared from personal experience and left a lasting impression on those who came.

“The mission of the CU School of Theology is to produce world changers for Christ who are passionately evangelical, church connected, spiritual entrepreneurs. These student presenters demonstrated that mission and helped equip these leaders to more faithfully and effectively serve the kingdom of God in their local context.”

The workshop was done in part in response to a request from the Campbellsville University Church Relations Council during the CRC’s spring 2014 meeting.

“CU very intentionally engages with the local church. This is another example of how we are working with our CRC and leaders of local churches in engaging our faculty, staff, and students in helping churches to be better engaged in ministry,” said Dr. John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president.

CUTheology Students Host Worship and Tech Workshop

mosaic

Workshop Theme: “Making the Pieces Fit Together”

Nine students and several faculty and staff from @CUTheology and the CU School of Music are hosting a Worship & Technology Workshop, Thursday, November 20, 2014 from 6:30-8:00 pm in the home of the School of Theology, Druien Hall.

Check out the flyer.  Registration is still available.

Worship Tech Workshop Flyer

WORKSHOP OPTIONS

Stage Craft & Set Design – Druien Hall 6
Learn how to build easy and cost-affective staging based on a sermon series or season of ministry.  See examples of materials and ways to utilize lighting and fabric for maximum effectiveness.  Presented by Fred Hoagland.

Worship Presentation Software & Design – Druien Hall 4
Take a quick tour of ProPresenter and Media Shout, the two industry standards for worship presentation.  Discuss how color, font and image impacts what is in the worshippers heart.   Presented by Clayton Brooks & Drew O’Neal

Church Web Design & Podcasting – Druien Hall 2
What can you do to improve your church’s website?  Images, logos, announcements, branding, and media.  This session will help make your website workable and useable for your church’s specific needs.  Presented by Chris Wright & Josh McCoin

Print Publishing – Druien Hall 3
Bulletins. Bulletins.  What can you do with that all-important print piece that takes time and energy to make every week.  This session will show you how to make the bulletin more attractive and appealing for readers.  Presented by Emma Calvert & Mary Kate Young

Social Media Integration – Druien Hall 4
In our world, a church must be present on social media.  This session will explain how to integrate your vision, mission, purpose, and ministry on Facebook, Twitter, and Instragram in a way that honors Christ.  Presented by Jon Kattus & Devan Bishop

Sound & Lighting Design  – Ransdell Chapel
The sound system does not have to be a monster in the corner or the bully in the booth.  Learn from a professional sound technician how to make your sanctuary sound system sing.  Presented by Robert Bender

 

 

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

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.

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.

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