Like many of you, I’ve worked through The Journey a few times with groups of wonderful people. I’m in my fifth go round, still learning, still working through my personal journey, this time with a new group of friends.
Today I read something I’ve read before (at least four times, anyway), and it spoke to me again. These are Frederick Buechner’s words in the session titled, “Participating in God’s General Call.”
“The church is always more than a school…
but the church cannot be less than a school.”
Historian Jaroslav Pelikan included these critical words on the first page of his five-volume history of Christian doctrine. Around VantagePoint3 circles, we would tweak Pelikan’s language a little bit by saying—the church is always more than a learning community, but the church must never be less than a learning community. We are formed to worship, to fellowship, to be sent out into the world in Jesus’ name—all essential tasks of the church. But we must recognize that the church is also essentially a place of ongoing education. From the crib to the grave, a church community must be a place where we learn to make sense of our lives and of the world, where we explore with a fresh imagination what our lives could really become, where we learn together to follow Jesus and his way of life in the world. The church is always more than a learning community, but never less.
Sadly it seems that many adults are simply surviving, hoping to get by with what they already know; learning is for children and teenagers, or so they think. There is often very little expectation of further movement and development in their adult lives. We desperately need communities whose life together challenges such notions; we need churches where the cultivation of a lifelong learning posture is Discipleship 101.
A learning posture of the heart and the mind does not discriminate between Sunday morning sermons and Tuesday night dishwashing, between classroom lectures and dinner table conversation, between sunsets and supermarkets. It is a cultivated paying attention, which operates within the everydayness and everywhereness of life. And when practiced over the long haul it is what the ancients called the way of wisdom. Or as Christian educator Steve Garber states, “we understand that the deepest lessons are not learned in text books, but instead are discovered as learning meets life.”
Things were very different just 500 years ago. The Bible was available in Latin – ordinary people like you and me did not have access to the Scriptures.
That didn’t seem right to William Tyndale. We all recognize his name – the man who defied the King of England to translate the Scriptures into English. His efforts changed England and changed the world.
But do you recognize the name Humphrey Monmouth? I didn’t until I recently read the book, “Gospel Patrons,” by John Rinehart.
Monmouth supported William Tyndale – his life and his work – and his zeal to get the Bible into the hands of people like you and me. The activities of Monmouth and Tyndale were illegal and eventually both were imprisoned. Tyndale was hanged and burned at the stake. God used their passion and sacrifice to change the course of history and the Church. Today, we can thank these two faithful visionary men every time we open our Bibles.
Think about the life change God brought about through your time in The Journey. What if that “change” was replicated in even more lives and churches across North America? What if more church attenders became even more dedicated followers of Jesus, considering first His way instead of our own? What could be the strength of God’s Church in Canada and the US if that happened?
An important question we all need to be asking ourselves is, “How deeply rooted am I with God?”
How blessed is the man
Who does not walk in the counsel
of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates
day and night.
He will be like a tree
Firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
From my perspective, there can (basically) be three possibilities. Since this is about being “deeply rooted,” lets look at trees as the example…
It is quite a deal when you discover something new from something familiar. You may have driven by that section of the forest a 110 times, and yet this time you noticed that one particular tree slightly hidden but somehow on this one day more obvious than all the others. The unique color and type set it apart from the rest. It is so obvious. Makes you wonder why you had not really seen it before. Your perspective of that familiar bush is slightly and refreshingly different because of the one very obvious tree that caught your attention.
It is helpful from time to time to take a closer look in order to see the tree in the forest. And when we do it often has the capacity to change the way we see the forest, making it seem refreshingly new.
Brent, Pam, and Randy had a conversation last Wednesday around the topic: “What We Are Learning About Adult Development.” For over sixteen years of working with more than two hundred-sixty churches from twenty-three denominations, we have discovered a good bit about how adults develop and mature. Most recently we received input from over fifty leaders “in the field” who have been utilizing our processes with adults in their congregations for anywhere from four to thirteen years. We are finding great insights, encouragements, and challenges amidst all the data of our research.
In this webinar, Pam and Randy and Brent synthesize what we have been learning from our experience and our research. If you at all care about the growth of adults and communities (Ephesians 4:14-15), then you are going to find this webinar beneficial. Here is the webinar recording link to listen in – “What We Are Learning About Adult Development”
By way of a sneak peek here are the seven points they discuss:
1. Shape the person and you stand a much greater chance of shaping everything else.
2. The deepening and empowering of others requires a ministry of paying attention.
“Promotion & Recruitment” is my title at VantagePoint3. To be completely honest, when I first started in this role, I very strongly disliked (bordering on hated) my title. I was fine with the “Promotion” part. It was the “Recruitment” part of my title that I did not like. One part of my role is connecting with new pastors and churches and inviting them to partner with us. Technically, that is the definition of “Recruitment.” However, who wants to talk to a “recruiter”? I felt as though that title had a negative stigma attached to it. A “recruiter” is someone who wants something from you…you meet with a recruiter to “sign your life away.” I often wondered how big of a hindrance that title would be…how big of a barrier it would be to beginning a conversation.
In the last couple of months I’ve developed a new passion for both the “Promotion” & the “Recruitment” parts of my title. I have a desire to reverse the negative stigma associated with the word “recruiter.”
In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.” Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.” So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand.
Mark 8: 1-9 (NKJV)
A few weeks ago I read Mark 8. For some reason this story captured my as it never has before. I promptly turned to Matthew 15, Luke 9, and John 6 to read the other Gospel accounts. Since then, I have not really been able to read beyond this. It captured me and I’ve continued reading all 4 of the Apostles’ accounts…
19 years ago I followed a nudge to do what I could to help pastors and the leaders in local churches pay greater attention to the development of their adults. At the time I knew part of the concern was a leadership one, and so much of what I put my hand to was couched in the language of “leadership development.” And, in some respect, I was on to something.
From time to time we get emails or phone calls that remind us of the impact of the work we are up to at VantagePoint3. Yesterday we got one of these emails. So I thought I would share.
It is the story of two changed lives now changing others as a result of going through The Journey. Marcy Milburn at Newton Church of the Way in Newton, Iowa passed this story onto VP3’s Kay Hodges. Marcy writes,
This may seem kind of random but I wanted to email VantagePoint3 with an encouraging word about how lives are being changed in our community because of The Journey.
Below is an article that our local newspaper ran a few weeks ago called “From Dope to Hope.” It’s about two men in our church whose backgrounds couldn’t have been more different, one is a law enforcement officer and the other a former convict. They connected during The Journey class a few years ago, and gave testimonies recently about how God used The Journey to bring them together, which later led them in a joint effort to start this faith-based substance abuse support ministry called Discover Hope 517.
I know you probably hear stories all the time about lives that are being changed through The Journey and VantagePoint3 materials, but I felt led to share. I think the “ripple effect” of their story is what’s most inspiring to me: two very different men take The Journey and are skeptical of each other at first, not even sure if they can trust each other because of their backgrounds; they embrace the process, God changes their hearts, and they grow in Christ; God leads them in a joint effort to start a ministry called Discover Hope so that people who struggle with addiction can have a support group centered around Jesus. Lives are being changed and people are being set free because of the love of Jesus!
So I want to say thank you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Because of the opportunity your leadership development curriculum provides, lives are being changed, not only in our church but in our community. Thank you!
Director of Children’s Ministries and Adult Discipleship
Newton Church of The Way
The Spirit is always up to something creative and good, and it is such a gift when we get to witness this faithful work in real time. We are grateful to be a small part of God’s kingdom work in Newton. May the Lord continue to bless the friendship and efforts of Aaron and Robbie and The Discover Hope Ministry in Newton. In Jesus name.