24 January 2006

Family and Friends,

I am home in Newberg for a week and thought that it might be a good time to send out an update. Life and ministry in Michigan continues to go well. I miss my family each day, but am also feeling led by Christ each day in my work at Ogden Church.

Lessons are being learned – sometimes through trial and error. As I help to put together, redirect and keep together the pieces of our staff after Jeremy's resignation (our associate pastor), I've needed to learn more about the challenge and joy of seamlessly welding together equipping, encouragement and exhortation.

Equipping is helping people become who God has hard wired them to become through the discerning and intentional use of their spiritual gifts, their personalities and their life-experiences within the context of both "ministry", and "everyday life".

Encouragement is helping people keep their focus on partnering with Jesus Christ in what He is doing in the present, while being hope-filled, discerning and courageous about joining God in what He wants to do in future.

Exhortation is challenging people to look and think outside the box about how to do ministry – believing that God's desire is to lead each part of Ogden Church forward in unity toward the goal of both being and becoming the church He has in His heart for them to be.

This is the prophetic part of pastoral ministry ... for it is includes both "calling the flock back" to the voice and intentions of God, and "calling the flock out" into the world with purpose and missional vision.

The Ogden Church staff (both paid and volunteer) is solid – as is the core leadership. They are giving me great freedom to "be myself" and minister out of my strengths, instead of expecting me to be "all things to all people." And for this I am very thankful.

People are being loved – sometimes "as part of the job" and sometimes in ways that defy coincidence and have the aroma of destiny. Day in and day out, I'm ministering to people hurting because of addictions, physical challenges, family pain, or disappointment with one or more members of "the triad" of 1) themselves, 2) God and/or 3) others).

Sometimes people come to me, other times I seek them out. I am thankful that many people are taking my life and ministry among them seriously – and they're not just waiting until their "permanent" pastor arrives before giving themselves permission to connect with their pastor-teacher.

And whether I'm connecting with people in my office, at a local coffee shop, or meeting them for the first time while on Prayer Walks in downtown Adrian, God is daily fine-tune my calling as a pastor-teacher, and using my spiritual gifts in ways that seem to be making a difference. And for this I am also very thankful.

Shepherding is a joy not a burden – it's so awesome to feel challenged and useful at the same time. During the many months I was unemployed I didn't feel much of either. But now I feel like I am being used by God to both guard and ground the flock.

Guarding them from discouragement and division during this season of transition. And grounding them in the heart of God by calling them to embrace the twin priorities of 1) God's WORD and 2) prayer like never before.

Beginning Wednesday night, 1 February I will start a 6 week Wednesday night focus on what it means to be a disciple of Christ ... and what it means to develop a devotional life, or as Richard Foster calls it, a “with-God” life.

I am sleeping well and riding my exercise bicycle each day. Both good signs that even though I am working many hours each week, I am finding peace and joy in what God is asking me to do at Ogden Church. And again, for this I remain very thankful.

I will return to Michigan on Monday, 30 January. Beginning Sunday, 5 February I will begin a multi-month teaching journey through the New Testament epistle of First Peter. I'm really excited about this and believe that God really wants to use Peter's words to bring life, hope, rootedness and joy to the Ogden Church flock.

Thanks for your ongoing prayers for me and for my family during this time. Also, beginning next month I will re-start an active search for the flock God wants me to serve as the pastor-teacher. What a joy this search will be for me.

I continue to believe God called me to resign at GFU, and that He is preparing me now for what He has in store for me in the future. I'm attaching a picture my brother brad sent me the other day. It's a beautiful reminder that oftentimes what seems big is actually small and insignificant and what oftentimes seems small is actually gloriously big and significant.

"God, give me Your perspective on life, on priorities, on people, on ministry, on myself. Amen." Godspeed.



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