Jeff Iorg Blog
Learning As We Go
Oct 05 2015
One of the things Golden Gate does well is teaching students the importance of theological reflection. We do this throughout our curriculum, teaching students to discern God’s work in and through them. When formal education ends, learning at the intersection of God and life is just beginning. Recently, a graduate wrote me the following insightful letter which he has given me permission to share with you. I made a few minor changes to preserve his anonymity and fit this format.
“As I’m approaching two years as a senior pastor in a small church, I have reflected on many things I have learned. The learning curve is overwhelming at times, and it seems I’m unable to fully catch all the lessons that come my way due to the sheer volume! Here are four things I’ve learned as a lead pastor.
1. I’m not as awesome as I thought I was. (Romans 12:3)
It’s easy to be an armchair pastor. When you’re young and under other people’s leadership, you think you have all the answers. I can easily identify problems and issues with organizations and structures (like most young, arrogant pastors). So, I constantly saw the church as having problems I believed were easily solved. They just needed to believe the Gospel. They just needed to remove outdated programs, structures, and events and start doing ‘this’ instead.
You quickly realize, however, people don’t love the Gospel less than you do because their philosophy and practice differ from yours. You understand not all hills are worth dying on, and that’s not compromising the Gospel. You realize there actually were faithful saints who went before you and rather than tearing down what they built, you should develop and build upon their faithfulness to the same Jesus. Leading intellectually and hypothetically is completely different than leading functionally.
2. The quickest route to ministry burnout is trying to be somebody. (1 Corinthians 3:5)
As a younger man, being somebody in the Christian world really meant something to me. With the celebrity pastor culture that’s so prevalent in Christian ministry, it’s easy to believe the lie that success comes from having a platform. Seeking a platform rather than seeking to be faithful - regardless of the outcome - is a sure route to ministry burnout. Trust me, I know a guy!
3. I want people’s approval, especially for my preaching, more than I would ever admit. (Galatians 1:10)
This has been one of my hardest struggles. I desperately want God to use me through proclamation of His Word. However, my heart constantly wrestles with the tension of wanting to do things with excellence for my glory and the good of my name, rather than for God’s glory and the good of the people.
4. Programs alone will not win people to Jesus - but rather individuals doing the hard work of pressing into people’s lives. I need to lead out in this. (1 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 11:1)
Culture devours vision. We may constantly tell people to engage their neighbors, co-workers, and community. If we do not lead out in this through example, it likely will not happen. What you celebrate, your followers will duplicate. You can’t celebrate what you are not doing yourself.”
My friend is learning profound lessons as he reflects on how God is working in his life. What are you learning?
Where the People Are
Sep 28 2015
When we decided to move Golden Gate Seminary, one of the most important decisions was selecting the location for the new primary campus. We chose a site next to the airport in Ontario, California.
We chose this site for several reasons but the undergirding philosophy behind the choice was “placing the seminary where the people are.” We wanted the seminary campus to be in the in center of the action – close to major shopping, transportation, and corporate hubs. We also wanted the seminary to be in a fast-increasing area of population growth.
Why place the campus among all this “busy-ness?” Because where people are, ministry needs and opportunities abound. We do not want our seminary to be an ivory-tower retreat center. We want it to be a training center – preparing people for real-world ministry in a real-world environment.
The population growth coming to the area around our campus is mind-boggling to consider. Government projections indicate more than 3 million more people will move to Riverside and San Bernardino counties by 2050. We will be in the middle of this explosion with all the attendant ministry opportunities.
The photos below capture what is happening 10 minutes – side streets, no freeways - from our new campus. I drove it Saturday just to confirm how close it was. Within 5 miles of our campus, a new city is being built. Ontario Ranch will have 46,000 homes and 150,000 people, along with the schools, businesses, and public services needed to support the community. Yes, you read that right. A new community, larger than most existing towns, is being built in the shadow of our campus. And, that’s just one community. I also drove by several other smaller developments that are already selling new homes.
Check out these photos and dream with me about the church planting, church growth, and human need-meeting ministries that can be part of our future!
Sep 21 2015
I have no idea who I will vote for when it comes time to cast a ballot for President of the United States in 2016. I will vote, I will vote my conscience, and I will vote my values. But who I will vote for - that’s still undecided.
Like many Americans, I was interested in the last televised Republican debate. CNN is trumpeting it as the most watched program in their history. That’s quite a claim and reveals the high interest level in the upcoming election. The stakes are high. It may not be too strong to say the destiny of our country is in the balance.
That’s why one particular statement by Carly Fiorina caught my attention. When asked about the Planned Parenthood videos she said:
“As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.”
This short paragraph accurately sums up the issue. If we have reached a point in our nation where this type of behavior is publicly funded and legally protected – and we cannot stop it – we have no hope as a nation. Our moral moorings have come undone. Our national soul is lost. Judgment – in one form or another - will eventually come. God’s patience is tested when ruthless people cannibalize themselves in the name of birth control or supposed medical advance for the living. We must stop this publicly-supported heinous behavior or face the inevitable consequences.
Sadly, that’s not debatable.
One of the hardest jobs in America today is teaching in a public school or secular private school. Besides the usual challenges, many teachers are now faced with a new mandate – eliminating references to gender in their classrooms. Some California teachers recently received an instructional packet which reminds them the beginning of the school year is an “ideal time to establish the foundation of gender inclusion in your schools and classrooms.”
Teachers are encouraged to say things like:
“There are lots of ways to be a boy or girl or even something else; isn’t that great?”
“Some bodies are thought of as ‘boy’ and some thought of as ‘girl’ but that’s not true for everyone.”
“Being a boy or girl or something else is not about what you like or what you wear or your body. It’s something that each of us figures out for ourselves based on how we feel inside.”
That’s just a sample. The training packet goes into significant detail about avoiding “binary” descriptions of sexuality or gender. References to gender must eliminate any hint of a connection to anatomical features. Gender is something a person chooses, and every child (even those who aren’t “confused”) must be taught to reconsider their gender in light of who they might feel they truly are.
It’s easy to imagine a scenario where teachers will soon be reprimanded or disciplined for holding to the shocking position that boys and girls are different, those differences are directly related to their birth sex, and both should be celebrated for their uniqueness. And, if someone were to take the truly outrageous position that God created “man” and “woman” as his perfect design – scandalous!
Believing God makes boys and girls – and we are responsible to shape them according to their creation-gender – is too important to kowtow to today’s gender-choice nonsense. Courageous teachers in classrooms across our country will ignore training like this and continue to shape a new generation of boys into men and girls into women. Let’s support them as they do.