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
- “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).
- “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)
- “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).
- “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).
- “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
JOIN US AT RIDGECREST FAMILY CHURCH THIS COMING SUNDAY AT 09:30 AM TO HEAR THE FULL MESSAGE.
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
In part one I addressed Paul’s words in Ephesians 4 with some textual consideration: “And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ” Ephesians 4:11,12.
In Part 2, I would like to draw our attention to a number of obstacles that may present themselves to living out our Gospel purpose as God intended. Paul’s central argument in this section is an important one to follow and reflect upon. Truth be told, Pastors are not God’s gift to the church but are gifted FOR the church. Similarly, we need to ensure that we maintain a healthy view of our own role in the ministry of Christ’s church in order to not become the stumbling block to what God’s seeking to achieve. There’s a clear, yet subtle difference between being God’s gift to the Church and God’s gift for the church. Are you embracing a multiplication and empowering mindset or a ministry diminishing one? Paul is clear in this text that there are important obstacles to overcome in order that the church grows and be strengthened. What qualities do you display that diminish this potential in the church? What qualities can you catalyze to correct this?
OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME
- Obstacle One: An inflated view of self over others. Our selfworth is never diminished as we continue kingdom worth, but our sense of self-importance needs to be checked. Far too much damage has resulted from an inflated view of self and a sense of pride, or importance. Don’t discredit your good work with a corrupt motive or intent. How are you doing in this area? Would you say this applies to you, and how?
- Obstacle Two: Abuse of individuals who display a versatility of gifting to the detriment of the others who see themselves as bystanders. This applies perhaps more to those directly involved in leadership roles within the church. It’s all too easy to utilize gifted individuals, however, it should never be to the detriment of their family life and walk with the Lord. Church programs always come at the tail end of these important considerations. Being a gift for the church will require longevity and an ability to say ‘no’. Remember that ‘no not now’ may be because of the season you’re in. But, it does not mean no forever. What do you need to persevere in and push through, and what do you need to stop doing to foster a healthy relationship with God?
- Obstacle Three: Isolating yourself from those who are gifted differently to you in a vocational sense. There is an evident inter-connectedness that needs to be acknowledged at this level. This is a tough one as God’s gifting and individual personality and temperament become complex fields to navigate within church life. The truth is, none of us are islands, and no one gift or compliment of gifts represent the full kaleidoscope of God’s intent. We need to foster a raw and authentic sense of inter-dependance that nurtures others and encourages God’s work. Have you ever found yourself isolating your ministry and gifting as a result? In what ways can you practically affirm the roles of others and gain insight into what they bring to the table?
- Obstacle Four: Pastoral co-dependency, where fulltime ministers see their role as instrumental in the outworking of the ministry of the church that breeds a culture of congregational dependency on the paid professional. This is perhaps a bugbear of mine, however, it’s driven by a deep conviction biblically and theologically that it is the task of the WHOLE church to take the WHOLE Gospel to the WHOLE world (thanks, Lausanne Movement for the terminology here). An over-reliance on any one person or one group is unhealthy in any church and we need to become ministry catalysts that enable and equip Believers for works of service. In what ways do you need to step up to the plate?
Living out your purpose in life is deeply interwoven with your identity in Christ and your vocational gifting in His service. In what ways will you allow God to move you to fuller service and participation in 2017? What do you need to STOP and what do you need to START or JUMP START now to be more Biblically faithful and Spirit-led?
“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ” Ephesians 4:11,12.
I just LOVE the book of Ephesians! From the onset of this incredible book, Paul celebrates his identity and infuses his understanding of how identity and ministry function into the flow of the book of Ephesians. In Christ, God brings about newness with a defined purpose. God’s concern relates primarily to our identity, in Christ, and how that plays itself out in our relationships, at home and within the church. Paul’s central argument in this pericope relates to the unity of the church and the specific implications that has for Believers who seek to walk in a worthy manner (4:1), recognizing the oneness of the body, under the lordship of Christ (4: 4,5), while recognizing the grace that our ascended Lord gives to us through gifts (4:7-10). In the light of this, we should all be challenged to live out our Christian identity in mission, taking seriously Christ’s gifts in people for the growth and maturity of the local church.The good news is that 2017 presents us with another opportunity to see this lived out. Do you recognize God’s gifting in your own life? How does your ministry vocation build the ministry fo the local church? Are you walking in your God-given purpose?
SOME THOUGHTS FROM THE TEXT
- Verse 11a starts with words of great encouragement to me: “…He personally gave”. Jesus, as Lord of the church, is personally involved in the ministry of the church to ensure that all that is done glorifies the Father. Christ has a unique role for each one of us and desires that we walk in this. What a wonderful way to start the new year- knowing Christ’s intent for my life and ministry. You truly are God’s gift FOR the church!
- Verse 11b’s use of the term ‘some’ correlates to the diversity within the ONE body of Christ and that not one person has every role. Christ’s church is meant to thrive on plurality and not singularity, or even individuality. Our respective gifts and abilities enrich the ministry of the church and add incredible value. Remember, no ONE person is God’s SOLE gift, we each have a role to play.
- Verse 11b provides for 5 specific roles that Christ assigns to the Church. These are given as:
- Verse 12 is clear that the context of Christ’s gift relates to the direct benefit of the local church. Paul is clear that this ONE body, under ONE Lord, given ONE Spirit is meant to utilize the fullness of God’s gifting through people in vocational ministry settings in order that:
- Believers may be trained for ministry;
- Believers (by implication) should minister;
- That the church, as Christ’s body should be built up in all things.
In my next blog, from this base, I will examine a few ‘obstacles to overcome’ in our leadership with Paul’s thoughts in mind.
I hope this has been an encouragement to you at the start of this year.
I always tell people that I have the best job in the world, and I truly believe that! I have served at Baptist Theological College now for almost 5 years and continue to enjoy serving the Lord in my hybrid role as Missiologist and Registrar. While I agree that these role balance my life out with a sense of tension, I love being able to lead in certain aspects, while still serving the mission of God and inspiring students to live out the Missio Dei (the Mission of God) instead of the Missio ME! I find it amazing how God uses my consistently to my calling, and to the passage in Romans 15:20 that He left with me as a deep impression when I first sensed His call into ministry.“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation”. God keeps me true to the following ways:
- God is using me the way I am wired– sure, there are new elements of gifting and empowerment that I see constantly, but God is using my personality, history, skills and complete makeup in a unique way to add value to His work.
- The more I have served God’s purposes selflessly, the more passionate I become about His Kingdom and not my own. It is easy to serve others when we expect something in return, however, the greatest reward is not serving with this in mind, but serving God from within and with all that is within and trusting Him with our very lives.
- God uses me more as an initiator, visionary and strategist- knowing HOW God uses me will allow me to make decisions that impact on the details of my ministry. I am not pretending to be someone that I am not, and I do not desire to serve in ways that will detract from Christ’s glory- rather, all that I do, is in order that God’s name and fame take pre-eminence.
Having served at BTC in this role and celebrating 65 years of equipping Believers for ministry, I would like to share with you two of my personal highlights (more to follow later):
Highlight one: Launching our Frontier Gap year ministry in 2013 is one of my favorite memories of time spend with the group, seeing them grow and be stretched. We have also adopted a least reached people group and a missional ethos as part of the Seminary DNA and regular mission trips, prayer walks, street evangelism campaigns and the like are held.
Highlight two: Being a part of a turnaround project with administration and the Department of education has been a wonderful challenge and a much needed opportunity for God’s abundant grace. We have managed to turn a corner and are fact becoming a world-class African Seminary.
If you are able, join us on Wednesday 30th November at Rosebank Union Church from 19h00 for our 65th Graduation Ceremony as we celebrate God’s continued faithfulness.
It’s the MOST wonderful time of the year! This is a full-length clip from Ridgecrest Family Church’s Christmas Carols service this year. I find great joy in the fun-filled activities of Christmas, but what I enjoy more is seeing each part of our congregation being involved and playing an important role in the functioning of the church. Our church may not be perfect- we’re far from it, but what we are seeking desperately and with great intentionality, is to impact our community with the Gospel and see our community being transformed by the power of Christ. This last weekend is evidence of the heart of our people in the Christmas market we hosted as well as the carols service- each one played a role and the results were phenomenal! By God’s enabling, we desire to be a city on a hill- a church with an impact that goes DEEP and WIDE!
I just LOVE the American Holiday of Thanksgiving- what a wonderful opportunity to focus one’s attention on thankfulness to God and to others for what they mean to us. I have noticed more and more that Christians are tending to err on cultivating the art of grumbling with a taste of complaining that is often times driven by our consumeristic, self-centered society, where MY wants and needs are the MOST important. The truth is, Christianity is the most joyful ‘religion’ in the world- our joy and gratitude stem from the fact that OUR GOD REIGNS! There are a multitude of reasons to embrace gratitude and and a number of verses that you can consult. Why not take a moment to read one of these:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Psalm 136:1 ESV Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Colossians 3:15 ESV And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Ephesians 5:20 ESV Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
Psalm 118:28-29 ESV You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
God’s sovereignty, greatness and goodness should give us sufficient reason for gratitude; as humans, we’re not the the final or ultimate source of authority, God is. Resultant from His sovereignty, we have a few choices to make today; I’m curious, what will yours be?
- Choosing contentment over dissatisfaction
- Choosing joy over happiness
- Choosing peace over anxiety
- Choosing trust over ambition
- Choosing patience over instant gratification
- Choosing gratitude over grumbling
- Choosing life over death
TODAY is the day the LORD has made- REJOICE and be glad in it (Ps. 118:24)!