Changing Tides

Date: 21 Oct 2010 Comments: 0

It has been some time since I was able to update this blog with anything substantial and although I don’t like the fact that it happened, it was a necessary evil. Simply put, the world as I know it has been in a constant state of flux ever since I started this quest for ministry education and in the recent months, the intensity of the flux had reached a fevered pace. Although some of the changes have been rather large, I have faced more challenges with the little changes that have been building up than I have with the larger scale activities. I will do my best to state what is new and important to my current ministry life and hope that the details of the smaller things will be few.

The first factor is one that I have expressed previously but left much unsaid information. I have been working through my Spiritual Formation class the past 8 weeks and have been trying to give it my utmost attention. You see, one of the biggest challenges I faced when I was leading the Agape Baptist Church student ministry was my spiritual immaturity as a leader. This immaturity was fueled by the fact that I desperately needed some spiritual balance to help me keep up with the ever changing situation at the church but I was inept at doing so as I had no clue how on earth to strike that very balance while still keeping up with the other demands of my life.

It is this and many other things that the Spiritual Formation class teaches. That being the case, I wanted to focus as much on the class as possible. Not only has this paid off in that I have so many more wonderful techniques for balance but I have scored nothing below a 94 the whole time. I do hope that by the time I get all my grades back, I will be in the 96% range because that will help me move my GPA closer toward a 4.0. Suffice to say, I plan to repeat this level of devotion once my new class starts in a few days. This brings me to my next discussion point.

In late 2008, I felt the call to ministry on my life. Feverishly, I searched for degree programs to fill this need. I started with a Master of Leadership in Public Administration (MLPA) from Mid-America Christian University (my alma mater for my bachelors) but after only two classes (modules as they were called) I realized that I needed to focus on seminary. After talking with my beloved spiritual mentor and friend, Dr. Ben Brammer from Northwest Baptist Church and a series of eye-opening meetings with Dr. Anthony Jordan, the Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, I decided to attend Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Originally, I started to pursue a Master of Religious Education because I thought it would be a good degree for Children’s Ministry. However, after some further consideration, I changed my degree to a Master of Divinity.

The next phase in my life is one everyone who knows me is aware of, the day I chose to actually take on a ministry role. The way I saw it, I had a great deal of knowledge that I had been learning and I wanted to use it for some people who needed me to use it. I answered the ad to take Agape’s Student Ministry over and was very excited to be offered the position of Student Pastor. The challenges mounted quickly after that and as I discuss in my entry over the resignation from the position, it was too much of a challenge for me to spiritually handle.

However, I did realize that the position of pastor for a church or for youth is one that I won’t be able to do unless it is a very specific church: larger, liberal instead of conservative (not in politics but in mannerisms), with a vibrant community of faith attached to it. Most of the churches that I could be hired at for some time are not going to really fit that bill. Also, while I greatly enjoy preaching and teaching, working with people to help them with their faith and simply being there for someone… I do not like the obsession with perfection placed on most pastors, the need to play to the crowd I am speaking to, and most of all… I don’t know if I could handle things like the hospital chaplaincy work. Will I do it? If God calls me to then, yes, but it won’t be my preference.

Now I am finally able to lay on the next big thing… I changed majors. You see, the prospect of what kind of positions I see in the future of a straight M. Div were not exactly what I had hoped for. Besides, all this time, all I ever wanted to be was a Children’s Pastor. I was reminded of that once great love I felt for Children’s work when I started working with the Kindergartners at NWBC when I returned. I love kids, I love how they are not biased against people most often, I love how they openly accept grace just like Jesus wants us all to (See Matthew 18:10) and furthermore, I actually have something of a knack for reaching them. That being the case, I searched for the best degree to let me work with kids in the ministry setting and found the Master of Human Services – Marriage/Family Counseling. This gives me the developmental psychology and the family counseling I need to be taken seriously as a children’s pastor.  The degree program is only 30 credit hours as opposed to the 96 it would have taken for my M. Div so the overall time I am spending in college is lower by a significant amount.

However, there was one nagging question… what about all those credits I got in seminary? After all, the classes do not transfer to my new degree. As it stands, I have completed 25 credits toward my M. Div. If I were to do nothing but get the MAHS degree, I would lose essentially two years of my life. So, I discovered that a smaller seminary degree, Master of Religion – Christian Ministries Specialization features all of the seminary work without the challenging Greek and Hebrew classes and with less demand for challenging classes. Basically, if I complete 5 more classes (2 1/2 semesters or a little shy of one more year) then I would actually get to use ALL of my seminary credits and I would have TWO Masters Degrees. My first would be the core needed to work with children in ministry and the other would provide me the theological basis needed to make a good stab at most standard pastoral roles were I to be called. It’s a no-brainer! To make matters even more wonderful,  even by getting TWO Masters, I am still only taking a grand total of 60 credit hours… that’s 35 credits less than my M.Div so that means I am still getting out sooner than originally planned.

As it stands, I am now serving actively with the Children’s Ministry back at Northwest although I have changed from working with the Kindergartners and have moved down to the 3 year old class. Honestly, this is better for me because there were already 4 teachers in there and usually only 10-12 kids whereas in 3’s, there are usually 10-12 kids and one teacher who leaves early and one who does not always make it there on Sundays. I still see my Kindergarten kids when I come to church on Sunday night because I also am a teacher with the Awana Sparks class which features kindergartners and even some first graders who I had when they were in Pre-K. I want to do more with the kids but to work on Wednesdays would be impossible because of my schedule, Tiff’s schedule, and Mady’s bed time.

Over the time I have been in my classes, I have learned a great deal about being humble and learning to seek closer for God’s voice in my life. I still lament for what I feel like was a failure in the youth ministry but the Good News of Jesus tells me that I am forgiven and accepted any way… at least from God’s perspective. I am trying to get myself more spiritually centered so I can lead my family through the storms of life and so that I can teach my daughter how very important she is to God and whatever else happens is simply an additional opportunity for change and growth.

Skimming over the last few details… I attended my 10 year high school reunion during the second weekend of October and although I had to explain how I had stepped down from the pastoral role, I was amazed at how well I was received. I felt socially awkward plenty of times but that is not a problem to me. I was able to catch up with some of the people I have been friends with on Facebook and offer hugs and smiles to them personally. I even had the chance to speak rather openly about my faith and about the wonderful changes in my life to a few people that I would never have imagined I would make connections with, it’s funny how God works in ways like that. It also seems that I will be able to start some music again soon as I found that a good friend from church likes guitar and wants to play so I am building up a studio computer so he and I can play on it and make some wonderful music.

Lastly, I have found one of my new favorite books, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. I greatly respected Manning after I learned that he was the one who initially stated one of my favorite quotes about faith: “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians. They acknowledge Jesus with their lips, they walk out the door, and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” This very phrase can be heard at the beginning of the song “What if I Stumble?” off DC Talk’s popular album Jesus Freak. The entire book focuses on the true reality of God’s grace as provided through the Lord Jesus Christ even fore the most lowly of people… especially for them. It’s an amazing book and I literally cannot put it down unless I have to.

That’s all for now. Do take care!

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