The summer time tends to have a more consistent pace than the rest of the year for me. I guess that's probably the opposite for most people. The consistency allows me to slow my mind down and reflect more on what I've been learning. One of the books I'm currently reading is So, You Want to Be Like Christ? by Chuck Swindoll. I've only read the first two chapters so far, but they have been pretty insightful, talking about intimacy and simplicity. Chuck quotes Richard Foster from another book: "The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people." That is so true and something I struggle with. Often I feel a need to be impressive to other people. Sometimes I start thinking too much about how people perceive my LinkedIn account or my Facebook timeline cover. When preparing a sermon I get stressed because I want to be able to say something original and enlightening. Or I'm too concerned with sounding deep rather than being deep with God.
This summer I've also been studying 1 and 2 Samuel while listening to the audio recordings of a graduate level theology class at Regent College. I've learned a lot about how to read Old Testament narrative, the significance of Samuel, Saul, and David's stories, how the Israelites and surrounding nations perceived God, the purpose of several parallels to the Exodus or to Samson, etc. The professor of this class, Rikk Watts, even pointed out that the original Hebrew manuscripts of these scriptures didn't have vowels. So we can actually change around the vowels (if you know how to read Hebrew) and sometimes there is a different possible meaning in the text. There are so many intellectually complex things about the Bible and they can be very helpful to know. If we allow it, they can also get in the way. Something the senior pastor at our church in Garland has told me several times is every time you read scripture ask yourself, "What does this teach me about the heart of God?" If our study of scripture ever becomes about how much we know rather than a way to see the heart of God, we have missed the point. The point is to come into a deeper relationship with God. We can't simply study Him like we do the rest of our world. It's in this simplicity that we can find intimacy.
I'm almost done with building our student leader team for next year at UNT. For the past few weeks I've spent a lot of time on the phone and meeting with various students to talk through which ministry role they would be most successful in this year. That process has been such an encouraging time as I get to talk with so many different people (my list has about 65 students on it!). It looks like we will likely increase our number of core groups from 9 last year to 16 or 17 this coming school year. God has really blessed us with some solid guys and girls. I would say though, one of our strengths is that we aren't afraid to be small if necessary. Whatever number of committed leaders the Lord provides us with is enough. And our staff is very thankful for the quality of students we get to work with! It's totally a God deal.
Also, several members from the Garland and Wylie Northeast churches (the churches that support the FOCUS ministries) have been meeting occasionally throughout the summer to plant a church in Denton. The vision of our churches is to plant churches across the metroplex wherever they are needed, a lot like our vision for FOCUS on the different college campuses. The Denton church will be a huge support for the UNT and TWU campuses in regard to mentorship. Currently, the FOCUS staff and students who live in Denton travel an hour to Wylie for church each Sunday morning. That's not a big deal for once a week, but it's hard to integrate the college students into the larger community with that much distance. That being said, the Denton church will be very much a college church at first. There are a few families and older members moving up to Denton to help with the plant, but not enough to compensate for the number of college students who will likely attend. So one goal for our college students now is to be reaching out into the community to pull in more adults and families. Please be praying for this as it will make a huge impact on our college students and be a great opportunity for us to reach out to our community. We plan to kick off our first official meeting at the end of August or early September!
One last thing I would like to share:
Two of the girls involved in our Collin College ministry went through a tragic event that ended up being a tremendous blessing. Their house caught fire and was destroyed last Thursday (please be praying for their family!). Both girls have been involved in our ministry as leaders and will be transferring to UNT this coming school year. The older sister (Sarah) will be an intern. The father attends a different church in the area. Their family's response to this devastation has been incredibly encouraging to our family of churches. If you have some time, I encourage you to listen to what Sarah and her dad shared at our church meeting this past Sunday. It's pretty inspiring:
The King family sharing at Wylie Northeast