“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” (Judges 6:15)How many sermons have we heard about the unlikely leaders in the Bible? While I have heard several messages about Moses, Jacob, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Paul, I think what I like about the Book of Judges is that it is a pantheon of unlikelies!
Yesterday I enjoyed reading about Deborah in Judges 4-5, who was certainly unlikely in being a woman back in ancient Israel, who nevertheless was able to recruit Barak to be her commander in battle. I loved that he said, “I will go, but only if you go with me.” (4:8)
I suppose we all like the unexpected Peter Parkers types as heros. It certainly creates a great plot tension, right? But I personally connect with it because I can relate to it. I haven't been asked to conquer the Midianites like Gideon, but in the pastoral world, I'm an unlikely candidate according to the world's standards... female, not raised in the church, still working with young people decades after I was a teenager myself.
Yet I am so grateful that he has made me worthy. I am loved, and God is continuously revealing to me what He created me to do. One of the many reasons I enjoy being a Free Methodist is found in its name: I am free! I am being made into His likeness, being freed from the shackles of sin, free from my past wounds, free to serve and free to love without condition. It's a good life.
Here is what I am up to these days as I work and serve out of this freedom:
- A featured article in this new edition of Youthworker Journal. In fact, I gave them the idea for the entire issue's topic - "Isms." I had shared with them the series I'd presented to students last year on the ancient worldviews of polytheism, pantheism, monotheism, dualism, deism and atheism, and how I have always found that students like to talk philosophy if it is taught in an understandable way. More importantly, youth need a fundamental comprehension of worldviews to be able to notice them in the world around them, and to also have a context for their own faith. So they made an entire issue out of it!
- I've continued writing a monthly column on spiritual disciplines for youthworkers at YMToday.com, a ministry of the Center for Youth Ministry Training (CYMT). The fifth article came out last week.
- A new youth ministry consulting project with Youth Ministry Architects right here in town this weekend. Additionally, I am currently coaching youthworkers in two different churches in Seattle through YMA, plus four Free Methodist youthworkers from churches in So Cal.
- My third year teaching a Mayterm course (starting May 7) for Westmont College is the largest yet. Currently I have 14 students enrolled, which is the most I've ever had. And invariably a student or two tends to sign up the day that class starts. I'm working with at least 9 different non-profit agencies in which these interns will be placed. I will meet with the students twice a week to teach them what I believe are the 8 core competencies needed to live out our faith in the workplace.
- I will have 9 Free Methodist interns this summer. This is Year Two of the interns program, and it was a fantastic process, from Dec 2011 till this month, of working with faculty, staff and administrations at Azusa Pacific University and Westmont College to find intern candidates. Forty referrals and twenty interviews later, along with fielding a load of references, we've whittled down to the 9 interns being placed in our churches ranging from Lake Elsinore to Santa Barbara. I cannot wait to get started with them! They will be supervised on-site by pastors, but I also get to conduct a weekly "webinar" with them all, along with one-on-one meetings. We will read books, share experience
- Believe it or not, I have had a few side projects running... I have done some consulting in leadership development for staff and volunteers with Westmont Athletics, Fuller Seminary, Habitat for Humanity and a local church. I head back to Fuller Seminary next week.
- In addition to youth ministry consulting and coaching, I continue to work with several senior pastors as well, meeting with them weekly through Skype. At this point I am working with five of them.
- A whole blog post could be written about my next "big thing," which entails the launch of an entirely new leadership development project for the Free Methodist Church in Southern CA. As of last night, our new board was approved in order for us to form The Center for Transformational Leadership. I will be the co-director and focusing primarily on campus relations and recruiting. My work with interns flows out of this role, and I have some other projects brewing with administrators at Westmont, APU and Seattle Pacific University. In fact, I'm flying up to Seattle on May 20 to participate in a very cool event that we're calling "Why Are You?" I doubt I can adequately explain what it is -- just go to the link! Even though I lack the capacity to describe it in a succinct manner, I'm super excited about it, and thankful to partner with Dr. Rob McKenna on it. I hope to bring one to So Cal in the near future.
- Alongside all of these work-related things, I delight in a weekly lunch with a high school student to talk about life and theology, a Tuesday night bible study with dear friends who are like family to me, and a Bible study this semester in the Book of Philippians with 5 outstanding sophomore women from Westmont who have made me a stronger follower of Jesus with their earnest questions and quick minds. They spur me on.
Like Gideon, I tend to see myself through the lenses of insecurity and weakness. I have spent far too much of my time and energy focused on how I don't want to be, and used my frailties as an excuse for not diving in. How very, very thankful I am that God sees me through His own eyes as Creator, Father, Redeemer and Lord, and considers me equipped for service.