Jeff Iorg Blog
A Friendship, A Partnership
Nov 17 2015
It was recently my privilege to celebrate the retirement of Dr. David Gill from his 39 year pastorate at Concord Korean Baptist Church near Concord, California. David will continue his work with Golden Gate and his leadership roles with the Korean Baptist Fellowship, but in the fullness of time he has relinquished his pastoral responsibility to a younger man he mentored into leadership.
During my congratulatory message, I thanked David (and Anne) for modeling a Christian home, for serving faithfully as a pastor, and for making a long-term investment in Golden Gate Seminary as a student, trustee, and faculty member. His has been a life well-lived.
But the focus of my remarks was thanking David for his friendship. We have shared life together – particularly over the past decade. We have eaten together, traveled together, preached together, and laughed together. He has introduced me to many Korean leaders and served as a conduit for developing those relationships. David has helped me make a larger impact because of his quiet leadership – both through preaching and translating my books into Korean. In some small way, I hope I have also helped make his ministry more effective.
David and I are friends who work as partners in ministry. Many Anglo leaders see ethnic leaders as objects of mission rather than partners in mission. David is the pastor of a large church, with a fully-orbed ministry, and a profound commitment to being a Southern Baptist. His church has long since stopped being an object of mission and now participates fully as a partner in our mission. We are partners and friends, co-workers who support one another in our shared work of expanding God’s kingdom around the world.
Having a good friend from another culture has made me a better man and a better leader. My wife would say the same thing about her friendship with Anne Gill. Thank you David and Anne for your investment in our lives, for your faithful example of effective leadership, and for being our friends!
A People Legacy
Oct 22 2015
My mother died last December and today would have been her birthday. Last night, I discovered a group of her friends were getting together today to have a trail ride in her memory. There were already 16 trailers assembled, with more “local people,” planning to show up this morning.
When I heard about this, I marveled. My mother has been gone for almost a year and her friends are still grieving – so much they are gathering to celebrate and remember her remarkable influence on them. How did this happen?
Quite simply, my mother was a “people person.” She cared about people and was generous with her friends – almost to a fault sometimes. If she had a tool you needed, it was yours. If you needed to borrow a saddle, just bring it back clean. If you needed a little rent money, well, she would see what she could do. My mother cared about people, not in a syrupy kind of way, but in practical ways. She cared…and did something about it as a natural way of life.
My mother’s memorial service was packed – about 300 people attended. This is in contrast to a service I conducted a few years ago. A friend asked me to do a service for his father – which he was planning out of duty. The service had five attendees – my friend, his wife, their two children, and one older great aunt. The deceased was so selfish and abusive the rest of his family would not even turn out to bury him.
In contrast to that, my mother’s friends are having another spontaneous memorial almost a year after she died. What’s the difference? My mother left a “people legacy” – dozens of people impacted by her practical generosity. My mother’s life message would have been “people matter.” If you are too caught up in other things, let her life speak to you. Let her legacy adjust your priorities. People matter. Let’s live like they really do.
Oct 14 2015
From time to time, my blog title includes the word “confused” – which summarizes my befuddled state. Cultural mores are changing so fast, are so convoluted, and often so contradictory – I can’t keep up. Here is what I mean.
Rachel Dolezal is an Anglo woman – born in Montana to parents of European descent – who masqueraded for years as a Black woman. She wanted to be African-American – for apparently very important personal reasons – and transformed herself so effectively she was elected head of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington. She devoted her career to advancing the causes of that organization and her adopted race.
When her self-created identity was exposed, she was vilified. She lost her job, her community status, and was shamed as charlatan.
Caitlyn Jenner has also been in the news. Caitlyn was born Bruce Jenner – very much a man who was recognized as a world-class athlete. He wanted to be a woman – for apparently very important personal reasons – and transformed himself so effectively he has become a spokes-model for transgender issues.
When his self-created identity was publicized, she was made a national heroine. She had job offers, gained social standing, and was hailed for her courage.
So, I’m confused. In America today, you can apparently choose your gender but you can’t choose your race. Although you are born with both, one is permanent and the other is a personal choice. Changing one is despicable, the other honorable. Changing your race is a disgrace to the way you were made. Changing your gender is an acceptable step to correcting how you were created.
The hypocrisy in these positions is blatant and galling. It reveals the real goal for today’s sexual reformers – an all-out effort to reject timeless standards of morality, gender, and sexual identity. The issue isn’t personal freedom to choose (as is often claimed) – just ask Rachel Dolezal. The end goal is legitimizing humanistic desires to pursue personal pleasure at all cost.
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?