Roadmap

Princess, I – – Uh, how’s
it going, first of all? Good? Um, good
for me too. I’m okay. I saw this flower
and thought of you because it’s pretty
and – – well, I don’t really like it,
but I thought you might like it ’cause
you’re pretty. But I like you anyway.

–Shrek

Since I seem to be currently unable to provide any of the kind of content that I would like to read (i.e. erudite ruminations), I thought maybe I’d say something that interests everybody else. (But I like you anyway.) So I would like to announce that (once again) I have my whole life planned out. I’m sure this is a relief to all parties.

The first order of the day is to complete my education. This, of course, is not so easy as it sounds. Never was a man so troubled about so simple a thing as an education. In modern times, choosing a degree is really quite easy: for every career, there is an applicable degree. You pick up one en route to the other. But what career? With careful thought, and earnest supplication, I think I have decided… to be a pastor. I’m sure that’s no great shock to almost everybody, but that step alone was a big struggle for me. I was raised to think that certain professions are not to be entered upon lightly, and, in fact, ought to be outright avoided if possible. “Don’t be a pastor!” my mother cried out, “Haven’t you ever seen a church split?” But more importantly, in certain occupations, it is very important to ensure that you are a shepherd and not a hireling. Pastors have one of the highest rates of burnout, and more than any other, a charge they have to keep. What’s more, as a pastor, and with my personality, I would feel compelled to teach, and the scripture says “Not many of you should presume to be teachers…” So it’s a serious proposition.

If you recall, I even considered doing something in the way of principaling a Christian school. I was stopped cold by the guy asking me about calling. Everywhere I go, I can’t get away from calling. So I put it to prayer, and continued researching options. And then one day, quite out of the blue, my every thought and desire toward running a Christian school simply evaporated, as if that part of me had been, quite sillfully, but completely, surgically removed. And in its place I found something so utterly foreign that it could only have come from God: a desire to preach. Oh wonder of wonders! Miracle of miracles! (That’s a play isn’t it? Sorry.) The one thing that had given me most trepidation about a pastoral calling quite suddenly vanishes, and is replaced by.. what, zeal? Eagerness, desire, confidence? What hurdle have I o’erlept that suddenly the bandying of ideas in the true propigation of the Gospel looks suddenly like a glorious challenge, as if I had crested a ridge and now every inevitable step is a downward hill? (And what flights of rhetoric…)

Alright, I’ll pastor. But there my troubles do not end. Let’s be practical for a moment. (oh, lets!) I have no denomination. I’m not part of some burgeoning movement that has “sent” me to seminary, paid my bills, and now awaits on the other side with positions aplenty to hand out. And what’s more, I have this dashed intellectual integrity that prohibits me from joining any group that comes along and offers me a check. Just as a for-instance: I can’t be a Southern Baptist, because I’m too charismatic. I believe the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit are alive and well today, and I’d be hard pressed to join a place that denied it. I also can’t join any of the traditional pentecostal denominations, because I just don’t buy the argument that speaking in tongues is the end-all evidence of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” 1 Cor 12:30 pretty clearly implies that not everybody speaks in tongues, and the context indicates that the reason is **not** that they aren’t filled with the Spirit. Honestly, I’ve been leaning toward Presbyterianism; the theology of the reformers, John Calvin and others like him, has a delightful appeal. And yet, frankly, infant baptism gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Just prior to moving here, I had decided that, all in all, denominations were a good thing, and had taken it upon myself to look into joining one. We then promptly joined a small non-denominational church. They are a wonderful church, and a delight to be a part of, but in terms of finding a position after matriculation… probably a bad move. Generally, you have to be a member of a denomination before they ordain you and sign you on as the pastor of a church. What then should we do? Leave our home church in order to join a denomination? At some point, *yeah*. We have a wonderful church, but they’re not exactly going to make me their pastor in 5 years. At some point, denominations notwithstanding, we’re going to have to leave church A and join church B. It’s just not in my normal way of thinking to begin plans to leave a church immediately after joining. But there you are.

Currently at the top of my list of denominations, or church associations, or what have you, is a group called Sovereign Grace Ministries. You may have heard of them. I hadn’t. My first inkling was when I discovered that my mind’s nemesis Joshua Harris was made pastor of Covenant Life Church. Oh, and CJ Mahaney spoke at devotions once when I was working at BGEA. I missed the event. (Why am I calling Josh Harris my nemesis, you ask? Because he once wrote a book that stole my thunder. Said nearly everything I would have said, only first. He was like five years older than me. I was jealous.) At any rate, they lean both charismatic and Reformed in theology. This is an amazing thing. I had thought that charismatics didn’t believe in theology. Like maybe I was the only one–a kind of renegade. Alas.

However, ordination (or whatever they might call it) through Sovereign Grace requires something.. else.. than an MDiv. They have their own proprietary system, called the “Pastor’s College.” It takes about a year. To get in, you have to be sent from a local congregation. A reasonable request. A standard request. An inconvenient request for the unaffiliated. So, the current plan is to complete my MDiv at Pigeon Cove Chapel. I’m planning on taking this education thing as far as it can go, and so after the MDiv is complete, we go ahead and get right to work on the ThM, which happens to be only a one-year course. So somewhereabouts this same time (pending things like visiting these churches and deciding they actually are a good fit) we go ahead and join a Sovereign Grace Church (there are two in the Boston area). I’ve exchanged emails with some pastors in the area who seemed to be saying that this would be a good thing. At any rate, from there, it’s yet another year at Pastor’s College and then finally, I’m “working” as opposed to “going to school”.

And that’s the short term plan. Since this post is already three miles long, I’ll leave the long-term for another day.

Of course, Valerie has her own details she could add to this. I’ve heard there’s a thing that married couples do nowadays that gives their parents grandbabies. She’s really into that. I suppose I am too, but her life is the one that needs the most contortion to make room for pregnancy and early child rearing, so I’ll let her share those, if she so desires to.

5 thoughts on “Roadmap”

  1. Well, let’s see — that play with “wonder of wonder, miracles of miracles” happens to be Fiddler on the Roof — you really need to get around to watching the whole thing.

    “I am the only one” — didn’t Elijah say that once? He also was surprised to learn that the Lord had reserved to Himself quite a few more.

    Only you could make a full time job out of something the Lord has promised to do….Lead. Remember that “My sheep hear my voice and follow me” — and yes, I’m teasing you. — I think it’s that “leading like a drunken man” thing that frustrates you, mathmatical mind that you have. Yet the Lord never seems interested in the shortest distance between two points, probably because He never seems to be in a hurry and I doubt if He once in the past 10 years has wrung His hands over what He was going to find for Kyle to do.

    and I like that producing grandchildren thing — only please, spare us the details

    One quick question: do they have any of those Soverign Grace thingy’s here in “fly-over” country? If you’re going to get around the grandchildren thing, I feel certain that you should feel “called” to a location between Oklahoma & Tennessee. Arkansas would work. 🙂

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  2. You could just get ordained off the internet… http://www.wcm.org or any of a hundred others. 8o

    I know, it’s pretty sad… However, an ordination is only one group saying you meet their level of standards to be a minister. I’ve talked with several different churches just to get an idea of what they require to ordain under their ministry and the requirments ranged from saved and baptised to seminary degrees and a verifiable example of God performin a miracle through you. Legally, ordination is only needed if you perform weddings and you can non-profit incorporate your own church and issue yourself an ordination from your own church. The internet has even made that quick and cheap: http://www.legalzoom.com/pricing/nonprofit_pricing.html So, for the cost of a night at the Marriott, you can have your own church and ordain yourself.

    Frankly, this is sadly why people like George Barna thinks the church is going to be dead in 10 years, but his unrealistic prediction aside, I can see this as a problem to people like yourself who commit years to study, praying, preparation and planning only to have some idiot with $200 and time to waste giving a true ordained ministy a bad name. Then again, Reverand Al Sharpton can fall into that category…

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  3. Honestly, I don’t see it as much of a problem. “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” In my mind, the call to ministry and the call to seminary are two different things. Technically speaking, I received one WAY before the other. As long as it’s Christ being preached, I’m cool, however it happens.

    But for me, because of the sort of things I want to do, I want to be somehow associated with more than just a single church. The issue for me is not so much the ordination in terms of authorization, but in terms of association. It’s important to determine who and how you assciate with, because it affects the sorts of things you can do, and the kind of effect you can have in the church.

    Structurally speaking, a guy associated with only one church can really affect only that one church. Sure, you can write a couple of books and make some notoriety for yourself, but that really only amounts to talk and not lasting changes in the way people do things. Half your church may be avid readers of Francis Frangipane, or [pick your favorite name], but that doesn’t mean there will be any direct effect in the day to day way that the church is run. Even people like Rick Warren may have vast influence over the way people run their churches for a few weeks out of the year, but they aren’t really effecting systemic changes outside their own “little” sphere. There has to be some kind of official association for those kinds of things to take place.

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  4. Just a passer by who thought about making a comment. Please humor me for a bit.

    I’m a member of Chesapeake Church, near Baltimore, MD, a Sovereign Grace (SG) church that planted the church north of Boston (though much closer to New Hampshire). I admire your desire to become a pastor and your commitment to charismatic and reformed doctrine. Thank you for your spirit and Godly ambition!

    I have a heart for the Methuen church, and a deep love for the leaders in SG churches. I wanted to ask you to consider whether you weren’t seeing our movement as a means to an end? Paul tells us that it’s good to desire a pastoral role, but the tone of your message seems to leave out the submission to church authority and leadership. I can’t speak for anyone, as I’m just a regular member, but it may not be wise to presume that you could be sent to training from a church you have just joined and then happily plant a church wherever you like.

    There actually seems to be oversight in the movement to anticipate this: at my church, even long time staff members have been turned down when they expressed interest in attending pastor’s college, and some who have completed the training have been declined pastoral positions.

    I don’t want to discourage you, but my advice, if I were qualified to give it (which I’m not) would be this: get involved in a SG church; find out whether you really like it. If God’s call is upon your life, that will become clearer both to you and the pastors where you end up. Study doctrine and cultivate a lifestyle of worship, but do not presume upon God, lest you be disappointed if He has other plans for you.

    Pastors have been raised up on SG from many different backgrounds, so don’t feel like the only way to be a pastor in SG is to study theology formally. The pastor of my church was once an engineer and wasn’t called until after midlife. In addition, if you are called, the training you receive at the Pastor’s College will be sufficient for you–I say this not from experience, but because SG says so themselves in their actions: most of the new pastors I have met in the movement have no more theological formal theological training than the 9 months at the college.

    As I am not a leader and cannot speak for the movement, all I can ask is that you will consider this. If my words are true, I believe God will cause them to resonate with you. On the other hand, if they are not representative of your situation, I think God will make that clear.

    May your prayers concerning your future be fruitful.

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