Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lunch with Kent Hughes

In 2015, Calvary Memorial Church marks its centenary. We celebrated this milestone with four days of events stretching from last Wednesday to today. Wednesday was a special worship service, Worship Through The Ages, with a message from our most recent former senior pastor, Dr. Ray Pritchard. Friday evening was a celebration program and reception. Saturday morning we hosted a 5k to raise funds for our outreach ministries. And today after services we had an all-church cookout. It was a very full and very successful time of celebration. Four very different events, but all centered on the theme of celebrating 100 Years of Making Jesus Christ Known in Oak Park & Around the World.

I think the most significant part of the last few days for me was not at one of the events, but at lunch on Friday. For Friday evening's program, our senior pastor, Todd Wilson, invited his mentor and former senior pastor, Dr. R. Kent Hughes (author and senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton), to give the charge to the church. Todd and five other Calvary pastors and directors and I had lunch with Dr. Hughes earlier in the day.

Dr. Kent Hughes (center) at lunch with Calvary pastors

Led by Todd, we all picked his brain over the meal. I mostly listened, because it was a special treat for me to just hear what he had to say about leadership and ministry. I found what he had to say valuable and wholly applicable to my service in the local church but also to my work in arts management, teaching, and many other pursuits, both current and desired.

There are three pieces of wisdom in particular I would like to highlight here.

1. God made you to be you, so live your passions

2. Hire people superior to you.

I would generalize this to simply surround yourself with people superior to you, for situations where one is in leadership but not necessarily an employer

3. Take your ministry seriously; don't take yourself too seriously

Again, I would generalize that to say take your calling or profession or work seriously; don't take yourself too seriously.

It was a really great conversation with this elder statesman of the evangelical church, and a privilege to have Dr. Hughes for our celebration this weekend.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Articles of the Week: Pentecost

Tomorrow, May 24, is Pentecost Sunday, the fiftieth day since Easter Sunday, and the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. Here are a few articles on that topic from my reading this week...

Tish Harrison Warren, writing for Christianity Today, draws on insights from both ancient and modern theologians as well as her own experiences to explore maternal symbolism as it relates to the Church. "This Pentecost," she writes, "we celebrate the beginning of that great work of sanctification, the birth of our mother, Christ's bride."

Over at the The Economist's Prospero blog, Johnson writes about the significance of translation to the advance of Christianity. On the first Pentecost, as chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles tells us, a large crowd each heard the apostles speaking in his (or her) own language. It was a miracle that day, and the miracle continues, a bit less dramatically but no more importantly, through ongoing missions work in Bible translation.

And finally (though this piece was actually from last week), Russell Moore writes at his blog in response to the recent Pew Center study on the record-low number of self-identifying Christians in America. Moore writes, "The future of Christianity is bright. I don't know that from surveys and polls, but from a word Someone spoke one day back at Caesarea Philippi."

And here are Keith and Kristyn Getty and company singing "O Church Arise."

Monday, May 18, 2015

On Professional Confidence

Over the weekend, I had the chance to talk by phone with one of my Wheaton College roommates. Paul is currently serving in the United States Navy, and at the moment he is at Naval Station Norfolk in the final major portion of his training as a helicopter pilot. He reflected to me that at this stage, he feels more "trusted" by his superiors than in previous stages and as a result he feels more confident in his work.

I realized that, even in my very different lines of work, I feel the same. Like Paul, I am now four years past completing my undergraduate studies, and within the last year I have felt more confident in my work. I credit it to accumulated experience as well as being trusted and empowered to take on greater challenges and responsibilities by my superiors.

I have had a number of people who in the context of being my boss have also served as professional mentors to one degree or another. They have continually encouraged me and challenged me, and I know that I am indebted to them for the professional success I have had to date. Having a tremendous education such as I received from Wheaton College was a huge foundation (apologies for the hyperbole, but anyone who knows me knows it is hard to resist when talking about Wheaton), but I know that my professional mentors were (and are) profoundly significant in my young professional years.

And so, for any more junior young professionals reading this, let me say two things. First, be patient with yourself if you feel that you have yet to "achieve" anything. And second, keep learning, and find professional mentors who can help you keep learning.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Holy Week and Easter 2015

I am sitting at home, reflecting on a very satisfying Holy Week and Easter Sunday. As always, I spent a lot of time at my church, Calvary Memorial of Oak Park, over the last few days. I did not myself take any pictures, but I have plenty of images and moments from the last week in my mind. A few to share with you...

Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, we had the annual palm parade, with all of the children's Sunday school classes marching around the Sanctuary waving palm branches during the singing of Paul Baloche's "Hosanna." From my position in the audiovisual control booth, I saw every child walk past, all looking so excited to be part of the service.

Wednesday evening was dress rehearsal night for this weekend's services. We had a full schedule, and it was a very successful evening. I felt very good about the coming services at the end of the rehearsal. It is always satisfying just to see all the musicians come together in rehearsal and get a teaser of what the services will feel like.

Thursday evening was our Maundy Thursday service, a relatively new service for Calvary (this was only our third year celebrating Maundy Thursday). Seminary student and lay worship leader Erik Johnson prepared the songs and led our time of singing, and Nate Friedrichsen, our pastor of community engagement, gave a message focusing on the two cups: our cup, the cup of God's wrath, that Jesus drank for us, so that we could drink his cup, the cup of the new covenant. As I reflected with a friend afterward, I had never thought of it that way, and the image was helpful. The Maundy Thursday service had a great "family" feel, as it should. We celebrated communion at the service, and because we only had one service for that occasion, it allowed for informal and non-curtailed mingling afterward. I found myself at Red Mango with a few friends from the young adults' group after the service!

Friday evening we had our Good Friday services. I was the worship leader for the service, guiding the congregation through a liturgy of Scripture reading, corporate singing, and songs offered by the Sanctuary Choir. Gerald Hiestand, our senior associate pastor (our equivalent of an executive pastor) gave the evening's reflection, "Acquainted with Grief." It was a service of contemplation and commemoration, and I was privileged to have that leadership role in it.

Saturday, for me, was a work day. It was the day a few of us staff are at church, very busy getting ready for the following day. The redecorating and setting up for Sunday did not take long at all though, and only heightened our excitement for Sunday.

And then there was today, Easter Sunday. With my alarm set for 5:00 AM, I woke up instead at 4:45 AM, and found myself at church by 6:00 AM. I completed my walk-through and got everything open and powered up and before long the band, choir, and orchestra arrived for our warm-up rehearsal, and then it was time to celebrate!

It was, on the whole, a very good morning at Calvary. Everyone was in a good mood, the congregational singing (of classic Easter songs both old and new) was robust, the snacks were delicious, and by the time we reached mid-morning the sun was shining, dispelling the early morning cloudiness. God was praised for his victory in Christ. The resurrection, as Senior Pastor Todd Wilson said in his sermon titled "This I Believe" from 1 Corinthians 15, is God's "authenticating signature" on the life, teaching, and death of Christ. And we celebrated that signature in joyous fashion.

Such a great week. I was so blessed to be part of it. And, by the grace of God, I did not find any of it stressful or even draining, really. All by God's grace. Soli Deo gloria.