Thursday, June 07, 2007

Please Pray for Leadership Conference

Lord willing, I will be traveling to California in the morning for a five-day pastors' conference at Church on the Way in Van Nuys (near Los Angeles). The conference is hosted by Jack Hayford, Pastor Emeritus of Church on the Way and President of the Foursquare denomination.

After serving the Lord and his church faithfully for many decades, Pastor Jack sensed a call from the Lord to invest himself in younger pastors. Thus, he founded the School of Pastoral Nurture where he mentors 40-45 pastors at a time, for one full week. Actually, there are four different "consultations," each with its own emphasis, and a pastor must attend the first before the second, the second before the third, and so on. I've already been to the first two, and am now returning for the third. (The emphasis of this consultation is leadership).

The "consultation" is a mixture of teaching, interaction, worship, prayer, and fellowship. On Tuesday or Wednesday night we'll be having dinner at the Hayford's where we'll be treated to a private concert by world-renown suprano Steve Amerson. And then on Thursday night, I think, we'll be going out to dinner at some local bistro. But mostly we'll be gathered on the fifth floor of the Education building seeking power and wisdom for ministry from the Lord, through Pastor Jack.

Those of you who are familiar with Jack Hayford, Church on the Way, and the Foursquare denomination may be wondering why I--a calvinistic Christian hedonist--am going to be mentored by an arminian Pentecostal. The reason is very simple: I sense a call from God to learn from this man. Although I disagree with him on a number of theological issues, I have great respect for him. Some of the theological issues are so important that I could not serve on the staff of his church, even if he personally invited me to do so. But none of these issues are so serious that I would divide from him as a brother in Christ.

I could name many reasons why I respect him so much, but let me just cut to the chase: it's his unflinching commitment to the Bible and his impecable integrity that has stood the test of time. In fact, the thing that attracted me to the first consultation was the emphasis on "leadership from the inside-out," or to put it another way, character-driven leadership. Pastor Jack wanted to share with us how he lasted for a lifetime in the ministry--and was fruitful and joyful all along, even in the suffering. And in case you don't know, the vast majority of pastors do not last in the ministry. Some burn out, some can't take the abuse from sick churches, some are sick themselves and the pressure of ministry is just too much for them, some sin in one way or another and are forced out of the ministry. Whatever the reasons, most pastors don't make it.

I wanted, and still want, to be in the not-so-vast minority of pastors who last a lifetime in the ministry, and so it is that I felt compelled to draw near to this man. Before the first day of consultation one was over, I knew I was in the right place. We didn't talk about techniques or fads, we worshiped God in song, we pleaded with him in prayer, and we mined the Scripture for the wisdom of God. Both times I've attended a consultation, the Lord has spoken clearly and powerfully to me through the Word--in fact, both times have been life-shaping.

So, my prayer is that God would use this week to shape my life and ministry as well. I am going to spend time with a man, but much more so I am going to seek the face of Almighty God. Please pray for me as I go. The texts to which I've felt particularly drawn as I've prayed for this week are 1 Timothy 6:11-18 and 2 Timothy 4:1-5. I will close this entry by quoting them both:

"[11] But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. [12] Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. [13] I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, [14] to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, [15] which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, [16] who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen."

"[1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. [5] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."

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