It is hard to believe that a year ago at this time I had not yet bought my ticket for London and was having serious questions with my wife and my friends and (mostly) myself about whether or not pursing a doctor of ministry degree was a good idea or not. At the end of this first year, with a small, pinprick of light piercing the far end of the tunnel, I know I have much left to do, but I can definitively say that it has already been a valuable rewarding experience.
As part of this year-end entry, I have been asked to consider three questions: What surprised me; How have I been changed?; and how do I lead differently? To begin to answer that first question, I will share the two words that have been resonating in my mind about this year, as I have been contemplating this year – and this assignment: connection and awareness.
The biggest surprise to me was how easily I was able to connect each of our readings and experiences to my lived experience in a small multicultural church in suburban Boston. Our church is small, and very unique. I am incredibly fond of it, but I have to admit that a year ago at this time, I was unsure how much of the ‘leadership’ lessons we were going to learn would be directly applicable into my current context. As I sit here typing this, I can’t think of an discussion we had where I was able to sort of ‘turn off’ and think ‘this doesn’t apply to me right now’
The awareness comes in as wisdom and insight flowed for me in the opposite direction. I have had the opportunity to work in a wide variety of church settings, and while my current might be nearest to my heart it is also one of the smallest. I intellectually know that that doesn’t mean our church doesn’t have gifts to offer and insights to share, but I often fall into the trap of sort of ‘defaulting’ to the idea the our church and that I don’t have much to offer (even if I have a lot to say!) because we are a small church and because I am a pastor of a small church, etc.
One of the great blessings and joys of this year for me has been a dawning awareness of the many ways in which God is already working in powerful ways right where I am – and, while I have much to learn and an abundance of room for growth (why else would I be doing this program, right?) God is using me that the gifts I have been given to lead, to serve and to help shape a community of faith.
This leads directly into how I have been changed. The awareness of God’s working and the gifts and abilities already present in me and in my church, have definitely changed me. Because of this awareness, I think I am awake again to the genuine possibilities that emerge when your steadfastly, faithfully and (maybe even in the eyes of the world) foolishly follow the call of God: to new places or to stay where you are, to be and do all that God has called you to be and do in and where we have been planted.
I have also been changed, of course, by the relationships that have been formed over the last year. Who can imagine
life before this group of faithful mentors, teachers, fellow travelers and friends.
Through presentations and lectures, early morning conversations over coffee and late night ones in the pub (amazing how often I remember or reference that week in London/Oxford – what a profound impact it has had), whether the discussion was face to face over a few feet or via our beloved ‘zoom’ and thousands of miles, it is in and through these relationships that I have changed and learned and grown the most.
Jason, MaryKate, Cliff, Loren, Dominic, and others have taught and mentored so well. The ragtag band that gathered under the banner ‘Sevens’ for the first time in that German YMCA hostel dining hall in London (who knew such a thing even existed), has morphed into a group that has provided laughs and love, that has stretched and encouraged and challenged and comforted and loved. Knowing them, getting to be a part of this group, how can I not be changed?
Finally, the question that perhaps isn’t the most important, but does serve as the culmination of this review, ‘how do I lead differently?’
To borrow (and paraphrase) from one of our London Advance speakers recent book, paradoxically ( Paradoxology by Krish Kandiah (highly recommend!) After this first year of my Leadership and Global Perspectives doctor of ministry program I believe that I lead both with more confidence and more humility. After my experiences this year, I am more aware than ever of the amazing work that God is doing in the world, and the incredible gifts, abilities and talents that people are using to their fullest by working diligently, faithfully for God’s glory. Working, leading, serving in new and innovative ways. Our experiences as a cohort constantly remind me that everyone has something to teach, and conversely, we all have something to learn. This has been, humbling.
At the same time, this year has given me wonderful insight into what it looks like to lead faithfully, creatively and with flexibility in our quickly changing world. I am more confident that I am where I am because God has called me there and, having called me, God has and will equip me to serve well and lead the people that I have been entrusted to lead.
I am not finished yet, but I know what and who I am becoming: A humble, confident servant leader (in process).