Thursday, November 1, 2012

November Update

It seems like many months have passed since my last update.  October was not a bad month or anything.  Actually it was great!  I've just had a lot on my mind lately.  As I write this I am feeling quite introspective so bear with me.  God has been teaching me quite a few things lately.  One of our student leaders asked me today what I would say "spiritual maturity" is.  I see it as being very similar to general life maturity.  As we grow older we tend to become more aware of what's truly important in life.  We learn that discipline is important if we ever want to accomplish anything and relationships are more important than work, school, accomplishments, etc.  If you don't learn this, people would probably consider you immature.  It's understandable when someone is young and immature, but it's a tragedy to see someone age without maturation.  It's the same thing with spiritual maturity.  We learn what's important in life, but to the Christian, life is eternal so we come to understand what has eternal importance.  We learn that relating to God is of utmost importance and directing others toward their relationships with God is more important than our relationships with those people (and our relationships with people will usually flourish anyway when God is the focal point).  Also we can't expect a newly pronounced Christian to have great spiritual maturity and again it's sad to see a long-time Christian without spiritual maturity.  Each year we have new student leaders that are learning to be more purposeful with their time than they have ever been before (and more purposeful than most of their peers as well).  It's normal for them to not feel genuine as they meet with guys or girls regularly to build mentor relationships.  Instead of seeing them as obligatory and fake it is important for them to build those relationships out of their conviction of the truth.  Out of love for others we often do things that aren't what we feel like doing.  Through that process they learn what the big deal is: truly being someone's friend/biggest fan and teaching them the truth about God.  It's important for us to be challenging ourselves to grow more and more mature spiritually.  We should be asking ourselves hard questions like "Who am I investing in currently?" or "When was the last time I was purposeful in my friendships (with the Kingdom of God in mind)?"  What's quite interesting about spirituality is how different it is than we often think it to be.  Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like our Christian culture general perceives spirituality to be more so on the emotional side or "beyond the physical".  I say that more in regard to how we might say, "I feel like God is this or that" or by how easily moved we are by singing praise songs or a sense of feeling good from doing a service project.  I think it says something about how we interpret God.  Speaking for myself I am naturally a mood worker so I definitely have to be careful about doing/interpreting things based on the way I feel.  Conversely the spirituality that Christ and his first generation of followers spoke of was more logical and physical.  In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."  In Romans 12:1 Paul urges them: "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice...this is your spiritual act of worship."  The concept is simple, but the depth is tremendous.  I look forward to spending a lifetime consistently trying to understand it more.

Last year during my internship I worked hard to have long-term visions for individual people I mentored.  I wanted to really think about how many lives down the road they could personally impact and help them to really get a sense of that vision.  I believe this to be a very important factor in mentorship because it really helps them to start seeing how they can not only take hold of the vision you have but develop their own.  They are also equipped to reciprocate the process for others!  This year I am trying to add another type of vision development on to that.  My challenge at hand is to really see where our ministry at UNT needs to be moved in the short-term (in comparison to a lifetime).  Over the summer I was merely thinking about this semester, now I'm thinking about next semester and the following school year.  I should probably be thinking further out than that as well.  There are things that need to be thought of to bring about certain changes for the future.  It seems overwhelming, but I have plentiful support from the other staff and ultimately God's got it.  I just have to do my part and work faithfully.  Please pray that I will be able to thoughtfully and prayerfully cast a vision for the ministry and then do my part to bring it into fruition.

Over the past few weeks there have been a few things that have challenged me.  Being a new campus pastor that's not surprising though.  I'm starting to learn more about how complicated ministry can be when everyone looks to me for answers and my decisions affect a lot of people.  Also I'm having to support both male and female leaders now.  Brandon, our director and my primary mentor, has been helping me to prepare for the time that our women's minister, Amy, will be out on maternity leave in about 5 months.  I want to make sure that all of our leaders are supported sufficiently.  Please pray that I will be able to do this.  I would like to add that despite the challenges (which are really great challenges to have in comparison to what I could be facing!) God has been continuing to teach me patience and more so how to find peace in Him.  When I was younger I really struggled with patience so it's no surprise that God has worked on this A LOT with me.  The patience He has taught me has paid off time and time again.  When God allows situations to test my patience I am starting to feel a strong sense of peace and joy.   Maybe you know exactly what I mean by this.  I think in the times that I start to feel unsettled I just turn to Him.  Perhaps through this peace I've found in my Father's love I can avoid the burnout that many ministers these days experience.  That has been a fear of mine as I've come into this role.

I hope that what I have said so far is meaningful to you.  I try not to write too much in my updates to keep from overwhelming you with a lot to read, but I've just had some thoughts I wanted to share.  I would like to share a little more about the UNT ministry in particular before I end though.  Last night one of our new members was baptized!  You can watch the videos here and here.  It's been really exciting this semester to see how much our leaders have been making an effort to start up one-on-one Bible studies.  I have given out nearly 45 of our Focus on Jesus studies to the student leaders who have asked others to study with them.  That is really cool!  I would like to make sure and highlight the student testimony this month as well.  Vianet is one of our new leaders at UNT and has started 4 one-on-one studies with girls she has developed relationships with this year.  All of our leaders have really stepped up this year.  I'm really proud of them!  Please pray that they will not feel overburdened by the combination of ministry, school, and work.

It is truly a blessing to get to serve in the Kingdom through campus ministry.  I know God wants me here so He can teach me some pretty specific things and use me for far better things than I ever dreamed of.  Thank you so much for helping support me.  I really appreciate the various prayerful, relational, financial, etc. gifts that I receive from everyone.

Yours for the Campus,