Jeff Iorg Blog

Legal, Not Smart

Mar 30 2015

            It appears California voters will have a chance to decide about legalizing marijuana in the 2016 general election.  Big mistake if we do!

            In Colorado, I recently had lunch with about a dozen pastors.  I asked them if they had noticed any negative impact on their communities (and any increase in ministry demands) since their state legalized marijuana. There was a simultaneous eye roll, and then they all started talking at once.  They told me story after story of the negative impact legalization has had – particularly on underage teenagers.

            For example, in one pastor’s neighborhood, a man has planted a marijuana farm in his backyard.  Perfectly legal.  Teenagers sneak over the fence and steal the product.  He can’t stop them and the police don’t have the manpower to catch them.  These teens now have a ready supply – both to use and to sell – to everyone else in their area.  This pastor and his other neighbors are now organizing a watch program to try to keep children out of the pot patch.

            I left that luncheon to visit a physician friend.  I told him about my lunch conversation and asked if he had seen any results from legalizing marijuana.  He told me one aspect of his practice – drug tests for local employers – is booming.  He also told me many employers are complaining to him they can’t find workers because of marijuana use.

            Here is an obvious, but seldom mentioned problem.  While marijuana use is legal, employers can still deny employment to users – particularly employees who operate machinery, run equipment, or drive vehicles.  My doctor friend is seeing people fail drug tests in large numbers, while his corporate clients desperately look for sober workers.

            The most frequent argument for legalizing marijuana is “let’s regulate it like we do the alcohol industry – with production standards, distribution rules, and tax revenue.”  My question about this model is simple, “How’s that working out?”  Alcohol use costs billions in lost productivity, inflates health insurance premiums, exacerbates homelessness, mandates costly treatment facilities, wrecks havoc on families, and kills people as a result of drunk driving.

            Brace yourself, California – and the rest of the country in the next ten years.  What alcohol has done for us is a good model of what’s coming.


Staying in the Bay Area

Mar 16 2015

            Last week, in an open letter to the community, the leaders of City Church, San Francisco recanted their biblical stand on homosexuality and agreed to welcome same-sex married couples as members.  This church has been a strong evangelical congregation in San Francisco, looked to by many as a model for convictional ministry in a challenging setting.  Their announcement was a bad day by the Bay.

            The justification for their action was particularly troubling, even insidious.  They claim they are taking the Bible seriously, but have found new ways to interpret the Bible which justify – even mandate – their position.  They carefully articulate their position as being biblical, not a rejection of biblical truth but a redefinition and clearer understanding of it.  They have invented a new hermeneutic to support their experience-driven conclusions that several thousand years of biblical interpretation has been wrong.

            The decision by City Church is not really about sexuality; it’s about biblical authority.  The crux of the matter is this: does the Bible define morality or does our experience define morality?  The answer to that question has far more significant implications than affirming any form of sexual behavior.  The gospel itself is at stake.  If the Bible is wrong on defining sinful behavior, then why should we assume it’s correct when it also prescribes the solution?

            Over the past few months, much has been made of Golden Gate’s decision to relocate its primary campus to Southern California.  Perhaps you missed the second part of the announcement – we are also building a new campus in the Bay Area.  We are staying in the Bay Area, with a significant investment in a new campus, to support the churches here who continue to submit to biblical authority and honor the historic understanding of the Christian faith (and its Jewish heritage).

            We will be sharing the first architectural drawings of our new Bay Area Campus in meetings later this week.  It is a beautiful symbol of our commitment to shaping leaders who expand God’s kingdom in one of the most challenging ministry settings in North America.  It’s also evidence of our commitment to staying by our historic convictions as we train leaders for the challenging work we have to do in this part of God’s world.


Guys You've Never Heard of

Mar 09 2015

              The Christian celebrity subculture is a natural byproduct of a media saturated society.  There are prominent conference speakers and singers that seem to be on program after program around the country.  That’s not all bad.  God gives some people remarkable communication skills and it’s good for all of us to take advantage of those gifts.


One false assumption, though, that arises from watching these superstars is they are somehow the most valuable ministry leaders who are making the greatest impact.  The longer I lead, the less sure I am of that conclusion.  It seems to me the most important ministry leader you know is the one who visits you when you’re sick, performs the wedding for your children, stands for God’s Word in your community, or encourages you when you hit hard times.


Recently, while speaking in Montana, I met a pastor who has been there for almost 35 years.  I also participated in a service honoring a denominational leader who had served and strengthened church leaders for more than 25 years.  The first pastor means a lot to me because before he moved to Montana, he helped train me as a high school student.  The denominational leader impressed me because of the standing ovation he received, largely from other pastors, for all he had done for them.  James Moore and Mark Langley are two guys you have likely never heard of – but in their context they are and have been significant spiritual leaders.


Don’t be fooled by the false notion that well-known means most important.  Most of the significant work in God’s kingdom is being done by local leaders who are not well-known outside their community.  If you are one of those people, thank God for you.  If you are served by one of them, take time to say thank you to them.


Korean Friends

Mar 02 2015

            In the Bay Area, we have many Korean churches being led by Golden Gate students or graduates.  Every year they host a music festival, bringing many churches together to share an evening of choral and instrumental presentations.  They honor Golden Gate by highlighting our work, asking me to speak for a few minutes, and giving us a significant gift.  We appreciate their support, loyalty, and the outstanding musicianship which makes the evening so special.

            My introduction to the Korean Christian community came through Dr. Chang Moon, a longtime pastor in Tacoma, Washington.  For some reason, he reached out to me as a younger pastor and helped me connect with his church.  Then, while I worked for the Northwest Baptist Convention, he often invited me to teach, preach, or lead training events for him.  He taught me to love Koreans, Korean worship, and Korean food.  His friendship has shaped me profoundly.

            As Golden Gate moves steadily to a new future in new locations, our commitment to multicultural ministry, to the Bay Area, and particularly to the Korean community has not waned.  We will continue to train leaders – both in English and in our bilingual programs – for global ministry in and through the Korean community.  It’s been a great partnership and will only grow stronger as we continue to work together.