Author Archives: Tera Tietjens

Is It God’s Will that I change Churches?

Friends…

Over the past several months, several pastoral friends have prayerfully asked this question, “Do you sense the ministry move from ‘here to there’ would be a faithful transition for me?” This is always a deep trust question that I prayerfully attempt to honor. But this faith adventure with Jesus also has imbedded within it presuppositions that should be identified before moving forward. Simply, let’s look back and in before leaning forward. The best way for me to do this is using a Socratic approach; let me ask you some questions to help you discover truth. So please overhear me talking to a friend about one of the most pressing decisions any pastor can and will make.

First, “Do you assume that the location of your ministry calling is paramount and of primary concern to your faithfulness to the Lord?” (Theology question, “Is the Lord’s working in and thru you restricted by location?”)

Second, as an extension of the first question, “Is there only one place where your gifts can be utilized by the Lord?” Rephrase it this way, if your answer is yes, then you must be assuming that one response you will make is the faithful one and the other must be resulting in your disobedience. (Now, the theological question, what does this reveal about the nature of God and His character and the manner He employs spirit-filled people in Kingdom work?)

My friend…you know my desire is not to gain the right answer but to ask the right question that prepares the “way of the Lord.” So, here we go…

In seeking the Lord’s will, especially for questions that involved significant life change, my questions in prayer are these:

  1. Will this decision and the journey it may take me on make me more servant-like? More humble? (And not just “look” more like a servant but will this serve as a catalyst for my own real transformation)
  2. Will the Imago Deiin me continue to be shaped into His?
  • Will your mind become more like that of Christ Jesus? (Phil 2)
  • Will your “thinking like men diminish as thinking like God will increase?” (Mark 8)
  1. Will this action (obedience by either “staying” or “going”) display to my family, friends, and faith community a movement of the Spirit in my life?
  2. Will my Kingdom influence increase as my needs of self-interest diminish?
  3. Will God the Father and His Son be glorified? Will the Spirit find pleasure in me as His home?
  4.  Does this time of “seeking His Face” (not just His will) cause me to fully submit to Him in prayer, searching the Scriptures, and practicing the means of Grace. (Read it this way: Is the delight of being in His presence so much better than merely gaining information about my “next steps”?)
  5. Finally, have I already said “Yes” to His will BEFOREI know what it is? Do I so trust Him that I am already leaning towards His voice even before He speaks?

Response from my seeking friend;

Wow. That is a lot to take in. Thank you for your guidance Dave. I needed to read all of these. I am not sure it’s possible to answer some of them fully until you step out in faith. How is it possible to know how you will be shaped in the future by decisions that must be made on the present? How do I know if the Imago Dei will be formed in me? These are all great questions. I would expect nothing less.

My friend;

Try to re-read my questions without implying that you are merely seeking to make a ministry placement decision. For the questions are not segmented or focused on making a “right choice” (or the fear of making a “wrong choice”) but making a godly “life choice” (and read that as a Resurrection life-choice). Huge difference. The questions are intentionally designed to get you into the Presence of the God of all Wisdom, not merely making a list of spiritual pros-and-cons for a choice. That, my friend is secondary at best.

In my life there have been rare occasions when the Lord has so powerfully intervened and invaded my world that He has sovereignly taken me out of my current ministry context. Maybe 5 times in my entire life. Mostly I sense He is about changing me IN my current location and making me salt and light to broken and lost people.

In the end, I really think we have historically asked the wrong question: “Lord, what is Your will for my life?” For as a whole, doesn’t that sound self-centered? Rather, why not ask a larger Kingdom-minded question: “Lord, what is Your will, for the world!” Thus, we think global in scope and transformational of our heart.

If “spiritual unrest” is being stirred up in our ministry and maybe you even feel as if you are currently living in the land of ministry-wilderness, maybe it’s not so much to move us out but to change us from within. Let’s get that part right first…before we begin thinking that simply a change of location will fix everything.  Otherwise we take our same spiritual-relational problems into a new setting…and maybe actually contaminate that place with our pain and shame. I want to be a contagion of grace and peace. I do not want to make bad people good…or good people better; I want to be part of making dead people ALIVE. Jesus, start with me.

My friend, a ministry move may be in order. I’m just begging you to ask the first-order question; “Am I running from something (pain, ministry disappointment, financial hardship, lack of divine trust, pastoral leadership issues, laity problems) or am I submissive to the Holy Spirit to use all this to prepare me to be more Christ-like than I ever imagined. Remember, all of life and ministry is preparing us not just to “do something more effectively” but also to “be with Him” and to live in the presence of the Triune God for all eternity. So, the true location question of ministry should not be “here or there” but “in Christ.”

This is the worst “non-answer” I have ever given. But He-Jesus is the best answer to any question you can come up with.

 

In Jesus’ joy,

 

REV. DR. DAVID SMITH

DEAN

The Fruit of the Spirit (Patrick Eby)

One of the tensions we face as Christians is the call to live in a world that is not in total agreement with our belief system. It may come as a surprise to some, but this is a new problem. Christians have always lived in a world that is at odds with the values of Scripture. So how can we be faithful to God and to our values in a world that does not understand or accept the message of Jesus?

 

Lamin Sanneh argues that the gospel must be translated into each new culture. Christianity, especially since the Reformation, has encouraged the translation of the Scripture into the language of every tribe and people.  But translation raises an interesting question, how do we relate the message to each new culture.  According to Sanneh there are basically three ways Christians have approached their relationship to new cultures. First, some choose to stay secluded from the world, they strove to live completely separate from the world.  A second group strove to find as many connections between the gospel and the culture. This group may even exclude some cherished Christian practices for acceptance. A third group worked to be a prophetic witness that spoke against those who are no longer reaching people with the Good News because they have chosen an approach that either has compromised the truth (syncretism) or led to a withdrawal of Christians from the world (quarantine).

 

The challenge is to be a prophetic witness without becoming secluded from the world or compromising the truth. It seems our challenge is to be a people who are known for their love without losing our message. In the words of the Ephesians 4:15, we need to speak the truth in love. What is the essential message that must not be compromised? When we examine our message, there may even be things we believe are essential, that in fact are not essential, and may even be doing damage to our witness.

I wish we could hear again for the first time the story of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10). Can you imagine Peter’s shock when God told him to eat something unclean?  Why did Peter have to eat something unclean? Because God was doing a new thing, with a new people. God’s requirements seemed to change as Christianity moved from a Jewish religion to a religion for the whole world. Of course, there were those who held to “the truth” and argued that what Peter and Paul were doing was against the will of God.  As I write this I realize that some may misunderstand what I am saying. I am not saying we can lay aside the truth. I am saying we need to examine our beliefs and make sure they flow from the word of God and not our cultural background. Do we have values that we have learned which are tied more to our culture than to the word of God?

I had to address this in my own life several years ago. I realized that what I was watching on TV was molding me into something which was not in line with the word of God.  Instead of exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit I was filled with anger and hatred.  I was not worried about winning the world for Christ as much as I was worried about how ungodly the culture I lived in had become. I was more concerned with politics than with sharing the healing love of Jesus. Because this had become an addiction for me I had to go cold turkey. I chose to stop watching TV news.  (I still read the news, but this does not have the same negative effect on me). I have seen one major difference in my life. I am no longer angry and worked up about the latest issue on the news. Of course, there may be other places I may need to give up least it draw me back into an unrighteous anger.

What about you? Do you error on the side of truth or of love? Is there anything in your life that keeps you from experiencing the fruit of the Spirit?

 

Gal. 5: 22-23 (NRSV)

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

 

Lamin Sanneh, Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture.