IVP - Online Pulpit - May 2011 Archives

May 20, 2011

Co-Pastoring: A Surprising Catalyst for Transformation

By Michael Lueken

When the pace of life slows down and the reckless noise subsides, I see the ugly in my heart more clearly. I see ambition that is often fueled by a craving for significance. I see my identity wrapped around the latest sermon. I see how I brood when I don’t get my way. I see an unhealthy need to be needed. I see how much I want to be the “go to” guy. Over the years I’ve become an expert at ignoring, dismissing or justifying these issues. I forge ahead writing sermons, planning services, leading meetings, speaking at retreats, teaching on spiritual formation and calling others to Christlikeness, while significant aspects of my heart remain stunningly unlike Christ.

Obviously, the tension will never be fully resolved. Ministry can’t wait until everything is “just right” in our interior world. But we underestimate the long-term damage of living in fragmentation. It is crucial for those who seek to lead others toward formation in Christlikeness to engage in their own process of spiritual formation.

Eleven years ago our leadership sensed God’s leading to transition the church from a seeker-oriented model to one that prioritizes life in God’s kingdom and the inner transformation such a life produces. This has profoundly shaped the culture of our church, as well as my own heart. And a surprising means for spiritual formation has been the co-pastoring relationship I have with my friend Kent Carlson.

We have different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. We each have our unique roles in the church, but we work through most things together. We share the preaching and leadership responsibilities. We talk through the major decisions that need to be made. We discuss staff issues, finances and the various other challenges and opportunities the church is facing. We both sit on the elder board.

Over the years people have expressed their disbelief that such an arrangement can actually work. Co-pastoring does create inefficiencies, tension and sometimes conflict. But it has been a profound catalyst for spiritual formation because the dynamics of the daily relationship expose unformed aspects in our hearts that we simply have to address for the sake of the gospel, the church and our friendship. For over a decade we have been learning how to not get what we want. We’ve had to learn how to submit to the other person. There are times when I have to let Kent lead and vice versa. There are times when Kent thinks something should be done a certain way, but I’m going in a different direction and he has to submit his opinions and follow. Throughout the course of a week, there are multiple occasions when we are facing our own insecurities, weaknesses, fears, anger and pride, and we have to deal with these before God or spiral into a black hole of self-absorption and pity.

Co-pastoring is probably not an arrangement to mass produce. There are some crucial elements that need to be present if it has any chance of working. But it has provided a daily laboratory for experiments in the fascinating journey of “Christ being formed in us.”

LuekenOP.jpg Michael Leuken is co-pastor, with Kent Carlson, of Oak Hills Church of Folsom, California. He is co-author, with Kent, of the recently released book from IVP, Renovation of the Church.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 10:50 AM | Comments (1) are closed

May 12, 2011

Faith In Strange Places

Thanks to Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom for this contribution. Mark is a Professor of History at Notre Dame and Carolyn has written more than 75 books and bible study guides.

Stories of God at work inspire us to be more prepared to answer God’s call in our own lives. In their new book, Clouds of Witnesses, Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom have collected some unique instances of how God has worked through his servants during the last two hundred years.

cloudscoverOP.jpgAfter decades of writing I (Carolyn) think this is the most ‘fun project’ I’ve ever worked on. I was able to enter the lives of seventeen Christians from the past century of the non-Western world and to compose brief biographies of each. Their faith, courage, tenacity and sometimes downright peculiarity challenged me at every point. Contributing to the fun was my privilege of working with friend and scholar Mark Noll. I think you might enjoy meeting these characters too. As an excuse for reading, you can always comb their lives for sermon illustrations.”

Because it is improper to teach any exclusive religion where she lives, a young mother reads Scripture aloud without comment to her daughter—her door open for any who wish to stand and listen. Many do. See Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922) of India.

Faith Gone Silly
Christians so intent on proving that they have overcome temptation to sin that they worship together outdoors—totally naked. (More sensible Christians intervene.) See Simeon Nsibambi (1897-1978) of Uganda.

God’s Mysterious Power of Invitation
Why would some 200,000 people gather silently for eight years in hundreds of small church buildings each Sunday, with an open Bible (that they could not read) on the pulpit—waiting for someone to come and teach them about Jesus? See William Wade Harris (1865-1929) of Liberia.

How might a Catholic bishop imprisoned for twenty-nine years because of his faith and with no access to other Catholics let outsiders know that he remained faithful? Suppose he has one hour at a formal public banquet but is not permitted to speak to the one Catholic guest? See Ignatius Cardinal Kung (1901-2000) of China.

God Uses Flawed People
Suppose a young man cheats at his final exams, locks his brother out of their room on a snowy night, shouts invectives at pastors in his audience, chases children away from this front rows of his meetings and gets himself locked up in a psych ward by his seminary president. Would you commission this man as an evangelist at the most critical era of a country’s history? God did. See John Sung (1901-1944) of China.

Sharing the Gospel with Unknown Consequences
She wasn’t an evangelist—really. She was a medical doctor. But somehow opportunities for evangelism kept coming her way, first as a leader of “Bible women” in Korea, then as a Bible school teacher and eventually a traveling evangelist. People regularly came to Jesus through her preaching. One of them, a seventeen-year-old school boy, left her meeting and returned to his room for a night-long “intensely personal conversation with God.” Watchman Nee had come to Jesus. See Dora Yu (1873-1931) of China and Korea.

“Working on these biographical sketches has made me (Mark) much more conscious of both diversity and unity in the worldwide body of Christ. The figures we sketch in this book were unlike each other in many ways—levels of education, styles of Christian life and witness, willingness to work with established movements, degrees of independence, beliefs about the most important things, attitudes toward family and many more. Yet in all were found (amidst also a diversity of weaknesses) deep attraction to the Lord Jesus, the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit and a burning desire to live faithfully unto God. As a coauthor I could not be more challenged by what I have seen in these diverse lives or more humbled by their unity in pointing to Christ.”

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 9:49 AM