Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hope for the future church

Talking to a men's group
And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love! - First Thessalonians 5
I have been involved in lots of ministry-related activity over the past couple of days. And - to answer the question I get a lot - "No, I do not even remotely think it would be a good idea for me to become a preacher/minister/pastor/whatever." I've always said I think one clergy-person per family is probably the legal limit, and I don't see that changing between now and the rest of my life!

Yesterday evening I drove over to Tarpon Springs to speak to the men's group at "The Church on the Bayou." Then this morning I made my way to Lakeland for a meeting of the Tampa Bay Presbytery CPM (Committee on Preparation for Ministry). We examined two men who have petitioned to be official "inquirers" into ordained ministry.

Kenny Ellis (middle) of First Lakeland taking the next step in a long journey
FUTURE IN THE BALANCE: Over the years, I've said "no, thanks" to many invitations to serve on Presbytery-level teams (Presbytery, for those not in-the-know, is the association of 70+ PC(USA) churches in the Greater Tampa area). The work of the CPM, however, focuses on providing support, encouragement and accountability to men and women who are responding to the call to ordained gospel ministry. I feel privileged to be part of such a critically important effort.

More than ever before, I believe the future of what we understand as "The Mainline Church" is very much in the balance. And that future - if it's going to be anything other than ineffectual witness and continued decline - will depend on a particular quality of leadership that might not - should not - look the same as the status quo that is already in place.
LEADERSHIP: Leadership, and this is true irrespective of denominational structure, is extremely important when it comes to setting the tone for local ministry. The church needs ministers (and elders, and deacons, and small-group leaders, and teachers) who own a burning passion for both living the life-charged life and encouraging that journey in others.

I'm convinced that is why Rebekah and I have enjoyed such positive experiences in ministry. I'm talking about undeniable enthusiasm for Jesus, unrestrained love for people, contagious joy, and a real sense of privilege when it comes to serving together as a community of faith.

A ministry I can believe in
This morning I sensed that level of commitment and excitement in both the inquirers who were presented. One of them, Kenny, was assigned to me, and so I get to be his official "liaison" over the next couple of years.

I love what I'm doing, and my prayer today is that more and more leaders in the "Mainline Church" (Presbyterian, Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Baptist, UCC, Catholic etc. etc..) allow themselves to become caught up with enthusiasm and charged with energy when it comes to the amazing Gospel of Love.
Peace - DEREK

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