Month: February 2017

Postgraduate Studies

One of my greatest joys as a Professor of Missiology is to see my students excel academically as well as on the field and in the local church. Part of this is due to my results-oriented framework, but also because I am privileged to serve at a Seminary and see students grow and develop to their full potential. I have been at the Baptist Theological College now for 5 years full time and have served for a total of around 9 years as an adjunct lecturer, giving input from the sidelines. I enjoy the initial growth stages of undergraduate work but love to see my students excel in their Masters and doctoral degrees. However, one thing I have realized is that postgraduate work, although popularized today, and rightly so, is not for everyone!

10 Factors that influence your decision to do Postgraduate work:

 

  1. Firstly, count the cost of what this will mean practically and measure that against the return gained through honest work and reflection. Most students like the idea of doing postgraduate work, but never think of the hours of reading, days of wrestling through concepts and constructs to produce work that is independent, fair and critical- work that adds value to academia and the church.
  2. Be honest about your own motivation behind completing this degree as it’s an emotionally tolling journey that will test your motivation and the application of your knowledge gained.
  3. Be true to your abilities and stage of life- don’t sacrifice what’s central for what’s a nice-to-have.
  4. Commit to the long haul and know that what you do will take longer that what you think and require more from you in terms of commitment and resolve.
  5. Develop a pattern of reading and research with dedicated time to study with the buy-in of your employer, friends, and family.
  6. Involve a wide network of peers and professionals in the process and the final product.
  7.  Ensure that your provider has the proper accreditation so that the work you do can be applied internationally and you’re not limited in that respect.
  8. Select a supervisor based on what they can help you learn and discover that you don’t already know- even if you may not always agree with their perspective.
  9. Get buy-in from your family and friends, as their support is critical to the process ahead.
  10. Don’t waste your Supervisor’s time and ensure that what you deliver is quality and according to agreed-upon deadlines.

If you’re interested in pursuing a Masters or Ph.D. without coursework, email me at desandlara@gmail.com for details or visit the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa’s site. If you’re interested in a great Master of Arts program with coursework at one of the leading Evangelical Institutions international, check out the Billy Graham Centre for Evangelism at Wheaton College and apply for a Masters in Evangelism and Leadership or a Masters in Missional Church Movements. 

Any further tips and thoughts? DH

Perfect pastor? Perfect people?

I know YOU have the perfect church and see yourself as the perfect leader who gets things right most times, right? Well, you may be that kind of leader, but I realize that I am flawed and in need of much grace, love, forgiveness and understanding as those I lead in the church context. Truth is, the ‘perfect’ leader is just an illusion or an ideal, at best! Apart from Christ, who modelled this kind of leadership during His earthly ministry, none of us get it right. This follow-up post is my heartfelt response to the cry of many within congregations that I have led over the years. Following on from my previous blog entitled, “5 Disappointments to Overcome in Serving King Jesus”, this post is written from the perspective of the many congregation members that share an equal disdain for church leaders who disappoint them, and who struggle with their desire to serve God, without being disappointed or ultimately disillusioned with the Church, or the Christian Faith altogether. Below are five of the most common disappointments I have heard aired. Perhaps you have others to add to my list, please feel free to comment below.

5 Voices of Concern From The Congregation

  1. You don’t include me in the process of decision-making but expect me to follow through at every level of execution on the ground. I know that you’re full time and fully invested in the church life and ministry, but please honor my involvement and allow me some space to invest weightily in the ministry we execute.
  2. You demand increasing amounts of my time in the name of ‘ministry’, while my primary God-given roles (follower of Christ, spouse, parent) suffer or erode to the point of breakdown.
  3. Pastors and some in leadership positions tend to teach one thing and demonstrate another in their lives. You cannot expect your church to do what seems above you.
  4. Your presence and friendship is often felt in times of blessing but is missed when my life is in crisis. Where are you when I am at my lowest? Do you measure me on what I can contribute and marginalize me when I can’t perform at your level of expectation?
  5. I feel that when the church grows your attention is divided and am disappointed that things are not the way they used to be. Please honor those who helped you achieve what you have by God’s grace.

 

Truth is, because of our fallen nature and sin-filled lives, we’re all going to disappoint people at some or other time and cause offense. WHEN this happens, and it will, the test of your maturity and faith is best measured in the words of Paul in Philippians 3:13, 14:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

We’re not in ministry for the approval of men or the glory of men, but we do what we do for the ultimate glory of God. When there’s hurt, address is Biblically and with a dose of humility, wisdom and gentleness. Proverbs 29:22 reminds us that: “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins”. Remember that when we’re hurt and disspointed by others, that we’ve at some point been in a similar position where we have hurt and dissapointed people ourselves. Give your pastors a break, and pastors, seek to resolve these often unspoken hurts and dissapintments in a way that leads to healing and fulfils the mission of God. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope” (Martin Luther King, Jr.). Let’s end this with a helpful passage from Proverbs 17:9, 10:

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.  A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool”.

 

 

Most days I feel like I have the best job in the world; I am a missiologist at Baptist Theological College, which gives me the opportunity to engage with ministry practitioners at the cutting edge of what God’s doing globally. I love to be able to be a part of student’s growth and development academically and both undergraduate and postgraduate level, and especially enjoy exposing my students to hands-on mission experiences and observe how God shapes their lives for ministry effectiveness.  As Registrar (Provost) I also get to be involved in the academic preparation of nearly 500 Seminary students enrolled in various degree programs, from Vocational Certificates to Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees. The Seminary keeps growing and is drawing multiple denominations and influencing many with a much-needed evangelical, conservative approach. I love my students, I love my role, and have often heard them say; “God loves you and Dr. Des has a plan for your life”. That’s true, and for that, I do not apologize! Apart from my ‘day job’, I get to pastor at Ridgecrest Family Church, where I preach most Sundays and lead as part of the phenomenal team God has put in place. I love the Lord, I love my calling and I am committed to God’s mission, yet I often find myself struggling through some real disappointments in ministry that my training at Seminary had not prepared me for. Ministry is not for the fainthearted, and there are times when regardless of our job or calling, we have to deal with moments of disappointment and even despair. There are times, like many biblical characters, when I am disappointed with Jesus, largely because of my (unrealistic and non-aligned) expectations and when I feel that I have let him down due to my sinful nature and actions. There are also times when I and hurt and disappointed by the behavior and actions of others that profoundly affect my ability to serve God’s purposes in ministry without being cynical or jaded. Allow me to share with you some personal disappointments that you may also share, along with a few passages of Scripture to reflect upon. This is not an exhaustive list of all of my disappointments, or ways that I’ve disappointed people, but may be a helpful reflection for you.  Be kind, not critical, as my intent is to share and allow room for openness among pastors, which I know is needed.

FIVE OF MY GREATEST DISAPPOINTMENTS

1. PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SPACE-  Private life devoid of dependency upon God discredits our public ministry. What we do in public must be built on authentic, personal relationship with Christ.  What we portray in front of people and who we are in private needs to be congruent. Many leaders struggle with this, and because of the church being a high-stress and high-performance/ demand place for pastors, leaders cannot always cope or perform at peak level and feel that portraying a preferred image of their lives over an authentic one wins favor with people. It doesn’t- or at least for long! Don’t be THAT guy, who leads from a sense of self and pride, and who becomes a faded image of what God intended. Lead from authenticity and humility!

 

2. LEADERS WHO DON’T LAST-  The culture of rampant consumerism has infected the church, and I often feel disappointed when leaders in ministry throw in the towel because of personal preference issues that they are unwilling to talk through or work out. Spiritual maturity is high on my list of qualities a leader needs, yet there are so few who demonstrate an aptitude for perseverance. What I have learned is that God is at work in their lives too and that I am not the voice of the Holy Spirit to them. I call it the “Let it Go, Elsa!” Principle (from Frozen- and yes I do have 3 young girls). Releasing people, in spite of your own better perspective, allows God to deal with them in His way and doesn’t allow people to become stumbling blocks within a ministry that may be moving forward with the Lord. Blessed subtraction often leads to divine multiplication!

 

3. FRIENDSHIPS THAT FADE OR FLARE- I grew up with the understanding that Pastors cannot have or make friends within their church. This perspective is unhelpful and unhealthy quite frankly! I have wonderful friendships at Ridgecrest Family Church and thank God for this- however, I am aware that before I am a friend to anyone, I am a leader, and those roles are never to be confused. Friendships are a source of great joy to me but have also been the source of great sorrow. Striking a balance in this field will lead to much encouragement if you are able to balance the good out with the bad.

 

4. MENTORSHIP LIMITATIONS- Leaders that last have mentors that have been tested! I have been blessed to have wonderful mentors in the faith, who have shown me, in different ways how to love God and pursue His mission. Perhaps it is not my mentors that failed me, but I have tended to place too much emphasis on their success and significant contribution to the extent that I may have placed them on pedestals they did not deserve. No one is perfect, and no leader has all the answers, and although we will be profoundly impacted by our mentor’s failings, we are able to learn from those who have gone before us in ways, that if applied correctly, will shape us to be better leaders ourselves.

5. SIN THAT DESTROYS-  This is a tough one for me as a pastor, as I invest so much into the lives of others that their journey seems intertwined with my own, and I often feel deeply responsible for their spiritual wellbeing. A reading of Romans 1, and the catastrophic effect of sin on the lives of people can be a source of great discouragement as a pastor. In the midst of this all, there is the realization that only God brings healing and reconciliation, and that our ministry, although important, has a specific role to play in God’s greater plan. Accepting our role and not usurping God’s is a helpful starting point to seeing God at work where sin seems to abound.

 

FIVE VERSES OF ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE PASTORAL EPISTLES

  1. “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).
  2. “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge.” (1 Timothy 6:20)
  3.  “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, 15 if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth”. (1 Timothy 3:14-15).
  4. “To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:2).
  5. “Timothy, my child, I entrust you with this command in keeping with the previous prophecies about you, so that by them you may fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18).

What are some of your own disappointments? What verses have spoken to you regarding this? Feel free to share and comment. DH

 

 

 

In this special post, pastor Matt introduces the sermon Dr. Desmond Henry will be preaching on at Ridgecrest Family Church this coming Sunday 12th February 2017. For the audio recordings and full sermon archive, visit www.ridgecrestchurch.org.za.

Have you ever wondered what it means to be a slave? Sure, we have all heard about slavery, seen it on television or learned about it in history class. But have you ever truly thought about slavery? The dictionary defines slavery as the following, “a condition of having to work very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation.” So essentially it means to be trapped in a situation where you are mistreated, abused and unappreciated, and often beaten if you underperform. Being a slave can be compared to receiving a prison sentence in our modern context, to be held captive in a situation where there is no escape and there is no hope.

Now, granted I have never personally experienced being a slave and I do not claim to understand what it means to be trapped in such a situation that a slave would find themselves in, however, I do know the feeling of being in a situation where there is no hope and where I felt trapped. A recent example is when I was almost arrested and detained during my mission’s trip to Botswana. I had overstayed my visa by 10 days, not by my own choice of course, but due to circumstance, and found myself in a situation where I had no way of knowing whether or not I would be able to leave the country or be detained in prison and receive a criminal record. Fortunately, I knew someone who was able to assist me and made a way for me to get out of the country, I still had to pay a hefty fee, but I was free of the burden of being in a situation of hopelessness and fear. I was a slave both to myself and the situation that I found myself in.

Slavery is a very real thing, even in our post-modern world, we often see and hear stories of child labor or the sex trade. The point is that slavery is very real and it is something that we have to consider and deal with even in our Christian context.

This leads me back to my question, what is slavery for us as believers in God? Have you ever experienced a situation where you found yourself being a slave to your own desires, your own circumstances or the situation in which you find yourself? Have you ever experienced that feeling of hopelessness, fear, abuse, and mistreatment or have you ever been underappreciated? Or do you feel as though you are free from all of this, Christ has set you free and you would no longer consider yourself a slave in any sense of the word?

Well allow me to make this statement, if you will, we are all slaves. We are not necessarily slaves in the sense of the dictionary definition where we are kept against our will and forced to work, but rather in the sense that we were once slaves to sin and by Christ’s death and resurrection we have been set free and are now slaves of Christ.

Allow me to explain what I mean, a slave is someone in a hopeless situation and is held captive, someone who has no rights, no possessions, no dignity. As humans, we are sinful by nature and often find ourselves in a hopeless, dark place where we feel as though we have nothing, no hope, no way out and no peace. However, once we commit our lives to God and make Him number one, once we have nothing in our lives that takes His place or are of more priority than Him we are set free. But once we are set free we become a bondservant to Christ and we give up all that we have in service of Him, our King.

What is a bondservant you may be asking? Well, a bondservant is someone who is bound to service to someone without expectation of anything in return. Sounds awfully similar to a slave right? The difference for us as Christians is that we were not taken into captivity and forced to be a slave of God, it is because God sent His Son to die for us and set us free that in our freedom we have no other response than to give our lives in service to God. Remember in my story where I said that I knew a man who could help me get out of a desperate situation and despite his help I still had to pay a hefty fee to be set free, well I know of another man who can set you free from your situation and whatever you may be facing that is holding you captive and guess what? The price has been paid in full. That man’s name is Jesus Christ and most of us know Him, but some of us may not.

So my question is this, do you want to be a slave to sin and a slave to this world being held captive? Or do you want to be set free into the life and service that our God and King has for us? Who is number one in your life? Because that one decision can make all of the difference

 

JUST DO IT
Living your life God’s way…

 

 

JOIN US AT RIDGECREST FAMILY CHURCH THIS COMING SUNDAY AT 09:30 AM TO HEAR THE FULL MESSAGE.

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NEXT-GENERATION DEVELOPMENT

Matthew Karg has recently been appointed as our Next Generation Intern and will be working closely with Pastor Ezra Karrupan in Epic Kids and Tots, Schools ministry as well as out High School and Frontline Ministries. He graduated with a Bachelor of Theology in 2016 at the Baptist Theological College and has a passion for young people and a missional heart. I am looking forward to serving alongside Matt in 2017. I asked Matt to write an introduction to my message on Sunday as we’re starting up our 10-week series on Exodus 20, the 10 Commandments.  I cannot wait to preach this Sunday and see how God’s word changes lives. Read Matt’s Intro below and join us at Ridgecrest Family Church this Sunday at 09:30 am (www.ridgecrestchurch.org.za).

DO IT GOD’S WAY

Have you ever wondered where our legal system came from? The set of rules that dictates and influences every decision that we make? Have you ever sat down and wondered who thought up every law that most, if not all countries have in place in their countries today? Who makes the rules?

Before we continue I would like to share a story with you about a time that I decided to break the rules and had to face the consequences due to the choices that I made.

When I was in grade 9 I dated a girl, and as with most high school relationships, it lasted all of four weeks. Needless to say, she broke up with me and I was absolutely devastated and decided that I should resolve my devastation and memories by drowning them in alcohol. I organized for my friend to purchase the desired alcohol for me and went home to tell my mother that I would be spending the weekend at a friend’s house. My mother, in her wisdom, new that I was struggling and advised against me going to spend the weekend away, and in my stubbornness decided that I would ignore her. Two hours later while kneeling in front of a bucket with borderline alcohol poisoning I wish that I had listened to my mother, that small part of my life would have been a lot better for it. Instead of honoring God by honoring my mother I disregarded both her advice and certain rules that she had set in place both for my protection as well as for a better life for me in the long run.

Isn’t that so often how we live our lives, either in a sense of stubbornness to the rules or with a minimal understanding of the rules, their purpose and why they have been put in place?

Let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t like the rules, we don’t like to follow them because we feel that they sometimes act like restrictions more than anything else. And sometimes following rules religiously can be trying and tiring.

But what if I told you that the rules are there to give you freedom? What if I told you that the rules are there to better your lifestyle and are to your benefit?

Maybe we need a change of mind-set, a change of mind-set where we see Christianity not as a set of religious rules, but rather as a relationship with guidelines that lead us into living life God’s way. But how do we do that and what are some of these guidelines that lead us into a more godly lifestyle?

What separates Christianity from other religions is summed up, I feel, in the following section of a poem by Jefferson Bethke:

“Now back to the topic, one thing I think it vital to mention,

How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums,

One is the work of God, one is a man-made invention,

One is the cure and one is the infection.

Because religion says do, Jesus says done.

Religion says slave, Jesus says son,

Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free.

Religion makes you blind but Jesus lets you see.”

 

Pastor Matt Karg, Next Generation Ministries, Ridgecrest Family Church

 

There’s much about the life and ministry of Jesus that resonates with me, and that I appreciate and aspire toward. The Gospel of John is an incredible work that speaks volumes to the person of Jesus and his ministry importance. John, however, writes in order to inspire the faith of his readers, that’s not taken for granted.  There are many ‘signs’ in John’s Gospel that allude to the identity, purpose and mission of Christ, coupled with the infamous seven “I AM” sayings. The Gospel of John unequivocally points to the deity of Jesus Christ and the calling of Christ in mission that beckons readers to not only observe, but become participant observers in God’s great mission endeavor. There’s nothing like a church fired up for mission, and nothing like individuals and families set on course for the common good of a community because of the Gospel. However, as the Gospel unfolds, there are many obstacles to transformation that present themselves that require our urgent attention.

 

Take a brief moment to join me in a personal, reflective journey regarding a few obstacles that you ay encounter as you seek to serve God faithfully where you’re at.  Start this section by reading John chapter 4 and taking special note to anything that detracts and distracts from transformed lives. Using John 4 as a basis of discussion I would like to present a number of obstacles to Spiritual transformation below.

 

OBSTACLES TO SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION

OBSTACLE #1: CONFORMITY

Conformity to culture seems a norm in churches and among Christians these days, and Christians have even invented a name for this- relevance. Cultural relevance in many instances compromises the Gospel and makes culture the axis and goal instead of Christ, love and truth. Throughout his ministry, Jesus showed that he was a non-conformist when it came to the rules of men and the institutions of men that neither glorified God, nor achieved his purpose. John 4 opens with a reminder that religious folk will not always be happy with a genuine move of the Holy Spirit and growth in ministry. In verses 1, Jesus decided to travel to Galilea rather than have a confrontation with leaders who wanted to bring him down and criticize what God was doing in and through his ministry.

OBSTACLE #2: CULTURE

“Jesus had to go through Samaria”; what a statement of purpose/ intent. Truth be told, Jesus’ intent on traveling through Samaria after his first sign in Cana of Galilea and his trip to Jerusalem at the time of the Feast, was a helpful allusion to the fact that God’s Kingdom includes those who may not fit our mold, or cultural preference.  Our culture, or the recipient culture may be a real stumbling block to sharing the Gospel. Much can be written on this topic, in fact much has been written on the tools to be employed in cross-cultural mission. However, the starting point, in my mind, is the equality of all cultures at the foot of the cross and our versatility and humility in bridging the gap. Jesus illustrates this point perfectly in John 4, and provides a helpful point of reference for breaking the barrier of culture in sharing the Gospel.

OBSTACLE #3: COMFORT ZONES 

Leading on from the previous obstacle, each of us is socially and culturally conditioned, whether we like it or not. Part of this is our insistence that our culture is right, fitting and supreme. We’ve all become comfortable in may ways with our culture, beliefs, geography, worship etc. Our comfort zones can serve a impenetrable barriers in sharing the Gospel when we do not allow God’s kingdom to break down our natural proclivity toward our self-interests and desire to preserve our lives, along with all that comes with it. The Samaritan women became rather used to the rhymes of a life of social isolation from the other members of her community that led her to draw water in the 6th hour, in isolation from others. Truth is, God’s not too interested in our comfort as there is a bigger picture at play- one that involves removing the obstacle of our comfort for the sake of God’s greater good.

OBSTACLE #4: CONCEALMENT

Many of us struggle with living with a concealed identity like the Samaritan woman- our lives are filled with shame and guilt that oftentimes paralyze our ability to either see God at work, or join in his mission purposes. We may easily hide or mask our struggles, identity or sin from man, but nothing is hidden from God’s sight. Why have our churches become a place where we display our false sense of security and model our success before the hoards of people we feel we need to impress. God’s approval is the only one we need to seek, and in order to gain this, as well as the respect of others in God’s unfolding mission, we need to eat humble pie and allow our testimony to speak to those who know the best and worst about our lives.

OBSTACLE #5: CONTAINMENT

I greatly appreciate the scene that unfolds in John 4 where the Samaritan woman abandons her jar of water (immediate, real need) and runs to the village to share of her encounter with the Messiah who knew her heart, secrets and failures, yet did not abandon her or push her aside. Her enthusiasm for sharing her testimony is commendable, and yet is so lacking in my own life and in the lives of people that claim to be followers of Jesus. Containment of the good news is in effect denial of its effect and refusal to share is perhaps the greatest shame for those around us. All that the woman shares is what she has sees and experienced of Jesus, perhaps there’s a lesson in this; we’re not expected to have a perfect theology, or a vast knowledge with all the answers, all we need is a valid experience of Jesus that excites us to share it around.

 

What about you?

Which of the obstacles above best describe you personally? One aspect that I am constantly challenged about is my tendency to ‘contain’ the message and good news to the confines of the church. Throughout this year, my desire it to see my walk with God overflow into various sectors of life and see greater Gospel impact, even as a ‘leader of leaders’ within the lives of other. Feel free to share your thoughts with me and interact on this post. DH