Categories
Life

Ending One Chapter, Beginning Another

For the past three years, I have served as a pastor at Grace Chapel in Clifton Park, New York. But for the past year, Carly and I have sensed God calling us into a new ministry role. We are thrilled to tell you that God has providentially led us to join Cru (known internationally as Campus Crusade) as missionaries to college students!

Visit pruchcru.com, a new website devoted to our new ministry, to read more!

In our church’s worship gathering earlier today, Carly and I announced this news to our congregation. It was a bittersweet morning, to say the least. Here’s what I said:

We are excited to tell you this morning that God has called us to a new ministry role. Carly and I are going to serve as missionaries to university students with Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. God has been gracious to lead us in discerning our next chapter and we hope you rejoice with us. While we are excited, of course, this is bittersweet, too, because my time as a pastor here will end at the end of March.

We acknowledge not having a senior pastor makes a transition like this messier. Yet we’ve sensed a call to a different kind of ministry for quite some time and are convinced this is the right time for us to pursue it. The possibility of serving with Cru has been on our hearts for the better part of the last year, and even more intensely in the last six months. We believe that Jesus is clearly calling us to this new role. Our parents, family, closest friends and mentors, and Cru leadership have affirmed us in this new call. Our elders have been very supportive and excited for us.

Several core ministry values led us to this. We want serve together more often and use our home as a base for ministry. We want to live in an urban context with a diverse population. We want to disciple young people in their formative years. We want to be around more non-Christians and share the gospel with them. We desire to work with multiple churches and organizations. We also desire to serve the global church and the connections and infrastructure of Cru make that possible. God has been gracious to put these desires in us and faithful to provide a path to pursue them.

For more than three years, I’ve been blessed to serve as one of your pastors. We came from Nebraska about as green as could be in terms of life and ministry experience. You have been so loving and caring—more than we could have asked for. You embraced our family. Some of you became surrogate grandparents to our children, many more became surrogate aunts and uncles, and all of you brothers and sisters in the Lord. We have significantly benefited from you, and we hope that in some way you have benefited from us, too.

Nine months ago, I stood here and asked you to pray for us to hear the voice of Jesus and obey him, no matter where he might call us to go. Thank you for praying. We now have a significant transition ahead of us and we ask for your continued prayers. And if you have questions, as I’m sure many of you do, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

From now until March, I’ll serve in a coaching and training role in the ministries I’ve been a part of. I look forward to working with many of you to help these ministries flourish better than ever.

The faith nature of our new role means, like other missionaries, we will need a team of people who will pray for us and generously give of their financial resources. On our own time, we will reach out to you all to talk more about our ministry and invite you to partner with us.

You can visit pruchcru.com to read more about what we’ll be doing or we can get you a brochure, if you’d like.

All goodbyes are hard and this one will be difficult, too. Our prayer is that we all would cherish the friendship we have been given and will have forever in Jesus. And even more than that, that we would cherish Jesus himself who binds us together in perfect harmony for his glory, no matter how far apart or what we are doing. He is sufficient, and we have every reason to believe that he will continue to be faithful, as he always has.

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Categories
Ministry

How Can We Best Change Culture?

What good do missionaries accomplish in the wider culture when their primary focus is on calling people to repentance and faith in Jesus? In a recent blog post over at Desiring God, John Piper connects the dots between spreading the gospel and seeing renewal in societal structures and systems.

Piper points out that sociologist Robert Woodbury published his findings about missionary impact around the world after a decade of research. Woodbury found that the greatest change in culture occurred where “conversionary Protestants” had a presence. While Woodbury did not explicitly define “conversionary Protestants,” Piper concluded that they must  be “missionaries…who believe that to be saved from sin and judgment one must convert from false religions to faith in Jesus Christ.” I think this is a right definition.

In all the conversation about cultural renewal or societal transformation or whatever you want to call it, Christians are often divided on how best to go about it. Woodbury’s research provides outstanding insight. Piper sees a “significant implication” in the research, and he points out what the implication is. He hits the nail on the head:

[T]he way to achieve the greatest social and cultural transformation is not to focus on social and cultural transformation, but on the “conversion” of individuals from false religions to faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life. Or to put it another way, missionaries (and pastors and churches) will lose their culturally transforming power if they make cultural transformation their energizing focus.

There is a biblical reason for this. The only acts of love and justice that count with God are the fruit of conversion. If repentance toward God and faith in Jesus does not precede our good works, then the works themselves are part of man’s rebellion, not part of his worship.

If we understand mission, conversion, and cultural renewal this way, we will have an impact on culture, but we will go about it by seeking internal, Spirit-wrought, grace-driven internal change. We won’t neglect the social, political, and personal needs, but these things won’t consume all our energy–or even the majority of it. We will focus our time, energy, and resources on seeing people converted to Jesus. And as we see people turn from sin and idolatry to Jesus, we will see re-ordered love and re-ordered lives and pockets of culture changed for the better.

Take a minute and read Piper’s whole post.

Categories
Ministry

Good Works is the Christian’s Symphony

Good works are the melodies that non-Christians hear.  Nearly all of the time, they cannot read our sheet music.  They can’t understand what the notes and chords mean, but they know a good song when they experience it.

Categories
Theology

Why Bad Times Are Good for Missions

John Piper posted a couple days ago on why bad economic times are good for missions.  In it, he came up with four conclusions for why this is true:

  • During an economic downturn we are more dependent on God. That is the most fertile soil for creating missionaries.
  • During an economic downturn unreached people around the world do not expect you to come, but to look out for yourself. So they may more likely see your risk as love rather than exploitation.
  • During an economic downturn those who need Christ around the world may be less secure in earthly things and more ready to hear about eternal life.
  • During an economic downturn people at home may be wakened to the brevity of life and the fragility of material things, and so may become more generous not less. And when they give under these circumstances, it will make Christ look all the more like the all-satisfying Treasure that he is.

Listen to Piper’s last sermon during Bethlehem Baptist’s missions focus week.