Jeff Iorg Blog


A Difficult Beginning

Jan 12 2015

The new year has started with terrorist attacks in Nigeria and France. Any thinking person knows more attacks are likely in the United States; it’s only a matter of time. These are perilous times, demanding steadfast leadership and steely resolve. My prayer is our national leaders will have the courage and wisdom to fulfill their biblical responsibility to use whatever means necessary to restrain evil (Romans 13) and promote the common good. It’s important for the U. S. to take the lead in the war on terror because one of our national values is religious freedom. Terrorists today are intent on ending religious freedom, killing everyone who does not share their religious worldview. As a people, we stand for religious freedom – which means we often defend the rights of people who disagree with us. That’s laudable, particularly for Baptists who were at the forefront of establishing this national conviction during our nation’s formative years. But it’s inconceivable our forefathers could have ever thought murder-as-devotion would be an expression of religious faith. The biblical responsibility to restrain evil is not trumped by this perverted form of religious expression. It must be stopped – decisively, forcefully, and immediately. While our government has its responsibility, so do the churches and entities of our convention. It’s time for sober evaluation of how we deploy resources, use personnel, and strategize for future impact. We are re-evaluating everything at Golden Gate as part of our relocation, and a very different seminary is emerging for the future. We simply must get more well-trained people to the spiritual front lines! We are driven by that goal in our decision-making. The world situation demands it. The needs of people cry out for it. The seminary we are building is responding with passion, focus, and sacrifice to a world desperately in need of the gospel.

 

Practicing What I Preach

Jan 05 2015

I try to practice what I preach, or in this case, write. While I struggle with inconsistencies, it’s important for me to at least try to do what I encourage others to do. A few days before Christmas, I wrote a blog called “Say it this Christmas” which encouraged people to say meaningful things to the people they love during the holidays. So, early on Christmas morning, I had a plan to do just that. Ann really enjoys Christmas – the decorating, the music, the food, and particularly the family time together. My practical side sometimes gets in the way of her good time as I complain about all the work involved to produce the fun. But this Christmas, I resolved to acknowledge Christmas in a quiet, meaningful way for her – getting the day off to a great start before she launched into the hubbub. I woke up early and started practicing my line. As soon as Ann woke up, before she got up and started blitzing through the day, I was going to tell her “Merry Christmas.” I was going to look deep into her eyes, smile pleasantly, and let the first words she heard be a heartfelt, “Merry Christmas.” While I waited for her to wake up, I mentally rehearsed what I would say and how I would say it - inflecting it just right to carry the full meaning of all Christmas means to her. Ann finally stirred. She opened her eyes, looked over at me and smiled. I could see in her eyes she was already thinking about Christmas. She knows me well and could sense something special was about to happen. I propped up on one elbow, leaned forward and huskily said those two special words I had been rehearsing – “Happy birthday.” Ann broke into hysterical laughter, gasping for air. I thought we might need to call 911 to resuscitate her. I flopped back on my pillow and thought, “How can a man who makes his living talking in front of people blow a two-word speech?” When Ann finally stopped laughing, I told her, “I have always thought you were special but, until now, I have never confused you with the Incarnate God of the Universe. You aren’t quite that special, but I hope you have a fun day anyway.” So, if you tried to say something special and it didn’t come out just like you planned – maybe the old saying “it’s the thought that counts” is true. Ann didn’t get to hear “Merry Christmas” but she did get a special gift – a story to tease me with for years to come. But I am undeterred and will try again. Let’s hope when June 9th arrives, she enjoys the Christmas card I am saving to give her!

 

Processing Loss

Dec 29 2014

A few days before the Christmas break, we had an all-employee meeting at Golden Gate. The purpose was for me to provide a summary of 2014 and outline our direction for 2015. These are unusual times for us while we are in the process of moving a very large seminary about 400 miles down the road. As part of our meeting, I addressed the issue of how organizational transition often produces a grief or grief-like response among the people affected. For example, people often feel shock, anger, denial before moving on to bargaining, exploration, and adjustment to their new situation. This is a normal process – but not one always acknowledged by leaders. For me, leading our major transition is more about the people than the buildings or locations. Golden Gate Seminary is primarily people – students, faculty, staff, graduates, trustees, donors, and other constituents – who have banded together around a common mission. Helping people move through this transition successfully is my first priority. Judging from the response, two aspects of the meeting were particularly helpful. First, I talked about my own losses and resulting grief through the process. It surprises some people that the person driving all this change has regrets about it and feels a sense of loss through it all. Well, I do. I have no doubts about the direction we are going – but I do have many regrets. Second, I assured our team talking about their sense of loss isn’t sub-spiritual or a demonstration of disloyalty or opposition. Leaving a place with so many life memories is hard! Talking about it helps. Commiserating about it with friends brings release and helps restore hope. As we begin 2015, our seminary will move through the most difficult part of our relocation. We are so far from the beginning we can’t remember the initial excitement. We are so far from the end we don’t yet anticipate the excitement of new beginnings. We are in the middle and we have to muddle through! Underlying all of this is the conviction we are honoring God, following him forward, and headed toward a positive future. The people who comprise Golden Gate have risen to the challenge thus far. I am confident 2015 will be a good year – albeit, hard some days – when we make remarkable progress toward the new future God has for us.

 

Say It this Christmas

Dec 19 2014

As many of you know, my mother passed away earlier this month. She was an energetic, vibrant person and we had a good relationship. When she died, I was already in Texas on a speaking engagement which meant I had a three hour drive by myself to her home. During that drive, I reflected on many facets of our relationship. One of the things I thought about was this question, “What would I say to my mother if she were still alive?” And, after thinking about it on that trip and in the weeks since, I have not been able to come up with anything. If it needed to be said, we had already said it. That’s a good feeling! I had often told my mother I loved her, had told her how much her sacrifices on my behalf meant to me, had thanked her for always supporting me, and enjoyed just “shooting the breeze” about her life and mine. My mother had some quaint expressions, her special way of communicating her homespun philosophies about life. Those sayings, and the “rain” report (always a priority in West Texas), were a part of almost every conversation – along with whatever family gossip was in the air. We enjoyed a free-wheeling relationship, frank and funny at the same time. What about you and the people closest to you? Is there anything you need to say to them, now, while you can? How about “I love you” or “I forgive you” or “Thank you for what you have done for me” or “I admire you” or something similar? If you need to say something like this to a special person, do it now! Don’t wait. My mother’s sudden death reminds us life is short and the end can come at any time. During this Christmas season, when you are with the important people in your life, let them know how you feel. Say it. Write it. Text it if you can’t do it any other way. But if you have something you want to say, or need to say – say it now!

 




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