You call yourself a “Christian”

I love my seminary. The teaching is great and Gospel-centered. But it is the interaction with other students that I am finding valuable. We have a student body formed from very different experience and backgrounds. While some choose to keep their view on the quiet side (after all the school was founded by Conservative Baptists) it is refreshing to have discussions with people working out their faith in unique ways. Of course I think we are all doing this with the Cross at the center (I mean what is the point otherwise) and I know there are schools where that would not be true.

This interaction is showing me more and more the need for grace among fellow Christians. We are all still depraved human (we can all affirm at least one point of Calvinism – the sin nature part) so our messed-up-ness makes its way into our worship and expressions of faith. We pick sides and stand firm on little things, because after all that is what humans do; just look at our politics or our preferences for music, the list could go on and on.

So how do we function in Christendom without extra-biblical criticism, hate, anger or your choice of bad attitude? I don’t know for sure yet. Even I am still defining what my own set of Reformed Plus beliefs (the plus being a charismatic understanding of the Holy Spirit) mean and how they play out in real life. But I think we start with the recognition and dialogue. We have to talk about these things and not pigeonhole each other (no one likes labels anyway, unless you like labels.)

Fellow seminarian, and much smarter man, Brian LePort is unpacking some of these thoughts in his own life and he has blogged a list of reasons why he is not camping in certain perspectives. Here is a taste:

I would have been this or that form of Christian except there was always something wrong…

I would be Reformed except I don’t believe in double predestination (a.k.a. theological duck-duck-goose [some days I don’t even believe in the Calvinistic interpretation of predestination]), I think humans have some sort of free will, I don’t feel like I can be comfortable with undoubted doctrinal superiority, I like the color “gray” (i.e. not everything is black and white), I don’t read Mark Driscoll or John Piper, and I like Catholics…

I would have been Baptist except I think women can lead, the charismatic gifts still operate in the church today, the Eucharist is worth doing more than once a month, and Al Mohler has become your spokesperson/mascot.

I would have been Pentecostal except I like to participate in the Eucharist more than four times a year, I don’t think Christians who speak in tongues are superior to other Christians, I think a little order during worship is a good thing, I am not anti-education, and I think they threw me out already.

You can read his whole post here. While I don’t agree on all points – after all I can’t function without absolute truth and black and whites – I respect his candid account of his spiritual formation. Have we all taken the time to think through things like this? This is where we start to find a solution. It is there somewhere, there is nothing new under the sun (or the Son for that matter) we just have to dig and search with passion and grace.

Advice for Ministry

In this season of life I am taking in a lot of information and I wonder how I will look back on these days, and what I will determine I missed.

Kevin DeYoung has formed a list of nuggets of wisdom for theology students or those new in ministry. He has a top twenty and a second post on things he would add.

My favorites are:

12. Plan for prayer days.

15. Spend more time getting to know your people and less time trying to figure out the culture of your city.

22. Keep reading.  Please keep reading.  Boldly ask for a book allowance. The rule is not absolute, but I question a man’s call to ministry if he does not like to read.

33. Make time to make friends. In the long run neither you nor your church will regret the hours invested in personal relationships with other pastors, old friends from seminary, and kindred spirits in the congregation.

All of Kevin’s suggestion are spot on and I recommend reading them and meditating on them.

As for #33, I am still waiting for those new friends in Portland to talk life over some beers, any takers?!

So It Begins…

The first class of my seminary career has taken place and I am looking forward to a challenging semester of learning and personal spiritual growth.

Tuesdays are my Ethics days so I should be more philosophical Tuesday evening but I promise to stay honest and relevant! Ethics is an interesting course because throughout humanity we ask the same questions but in the Christian context we have a base for our answers in the bible – what we see as absolute truth (at least most of us.) This doesn’t necessarily make facing ethical questions easier in light of our depravity but we should find ourselves evaluating life with the authority of a compass.

The class also is extremely important in ministry today because despite our insistence to run churches like businesses we neglect common business ethics. Conflicts of interest, patronage, challenges to integrity are all rampant in our churches but in a beliefs that the “church” is above it all, we deny our need for ethics and standards.

Prayerfully through this class interaction I will see Ethics in a whole new light.

With Anticipation

Yesterday we had orientation for new students at Western Seminary and I am prepared and excited to start classes next week. We chose this school for its focus on discipleship and Gospel centered life transformation and we had a glimpse of the community that backs that up yesterday.

I can’t fully describe it, but there was a sense of destiny in the chapel as men and women – mostly in their twenties and thirties – worshiped together. What made the worship unique though was the life stories each of these people are leading. Some have moved long distances (as far as Hong Kong) and sacrificed much to study and prepare for ministry. Some are in the midst of ministry now and want that much more of God that they would continue to pursue him in the classroom.

These will be the world changers we have so longed for. People devoted to the Gospel and loving others. Some have plans of ministering in Southeast Asia or the hardship destination of Hawaii. Others yearn to see the local church establishing, building and equipping Christian community. Others want to see people given freedom from life’s struggles and pain in counseling. The potential is great but the work of the Holy Spirit in this crowd of students is greater.

It is with holy anticipation that I enter the next few years of study. I look forward to the challenges of both academics and life. I look forward to the community and relationships that will be born and the lives that will be changed. All of this because  I know what our greatest pursuit will be – to know and love God more and to share that with the one in need of hope found only in Christ.