Dear New Life Family,
From time to time I find it helpful to “get on the balcony.” This is a phrase that refers to taking a step back in life, looking at the big picture and listening to what God is saying.
This week I will be spending two days in Clear Lake at Hope Christian Reformed Church. We have about a dozen pastors and denominational leaders gathering to review the fruit of our church planting work the last decade. We will be asking questions such as these: What has worked? What didn’t work? What are we learning? How has the culture changed? How can we plant churches that will be strong and vibrant for years to come? As we gather on the balcony together, my prayer is that God will inspire us with new missional vision for the next decade.
Next week I am spending two days at the annual Houston Pastors Prayer Summit. This is a gathering of 250 pastors and ministry leaders in the city from a variety of denominational, ethnic and ministry backgrounds. I went last year, and as I was up on the balcony with other leaders, I heard God speak. Last year I was strengthened in my conviction that God’s kingdom matters. Eternity matters. That the prayers we pray and the work we do here and now matters. When I heard the news a few weeks ago that a leader of the Church of Lucifer in Old Town Spring had given his life to Christ, I was convicted again of the importance of concerted and united prayer. I am praying for God to have his way with us this year and the years to come.
On Sunday, March 5 we will be privileged to have Dr. Mike Johnson preach for us. Mike is a long-time friend of New Life and was my mentor in seminary. The council agreed this week to have Mike do some coaching with us in the area of discipleship, specifically in the area of how people grow spiritually. He will be preaching about that and we will be communicating with you more about what this means. I was both encouraged and inspired in our conversation with Mike. He reassured us that he would be building on the work we had done with Faithwalking (vs. replacing it or ignoring it). He also asked us to think about how we could set ourselves up for success for the next decade in helping people grow. This vision of a strong and vibrant church is very exciting for me and I’m eager to start this coaching process with Mike.
Finally, I am grieving the last two weeks. One of my mentors who I looked up to passed away. Dr. Manuel Ortiz (Manny) was a CRC pastor, author, seminary professor and urban missionary in Philadelphia. He served at the Spirit & Truth Fellowship in the inner-city. I wasn’t close with him personally because we lived in different cities, but the work he did always inspired me and I’ve said to myself, “When I grow up, I want to be like Manny!” I was friends and colleagues with many of the pastors he mentored. And as I reflected on his life, and looked at my own life, I felt myself praying, “God work in me the way you worked in Manny.” Manny accomplished great things for God. But at the end of the day he loved Jesus. He always gave glory to God. That is my prayer, not just for the next decade but for the rest of my life.
Grace and peace my friends. Follow Jesus, love deeply and seek his kingdom always.