There are some things I'm excited about for 2012 - Dylan's high school graduation and college choice, hiring new Student Ministry and Executive Directors to our solidified staff team, opening new worship and student/children's space at church to serve more people, Austin playing football, pastor Flake's wedding, and some sermon series that already peak my interest ('Who You are in Christ,' 'Leadership' from Titus, 'Missio Dei,' and 'Faith & Politics' all have me thinking and salivating way ahead).
There are also two things I'm RIDICULOUSLY excited about coming in 2012:
1. On the last weekend of January, the return of our church's sweet spot with our 'Hope in a House of Blues: Grief and Loss' series, four weeks to be kicked off by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) and Mike Farris (well known blues/gospel artist, fave of LFC people). DUDE i can't wait! Blues worship and the Bible, focused on bringing our large and small losses to Christ. The four sermons Michael and I are working on are titled: Hurt, Hate, Heal, Hope.
2. Sabbatical Summer. Per our church's generous policy to care for their pastors (because of the high rate of burnout and depression among pastors, and the high cost to congregations when that happens), after the last seven years I am eligible to take a sabbatical away from work this coming year. I know, I know, you don't get a sabbatical every seven years where you work, and I'm sorry that you work at a suckier place than I do. Really, I am. Because I love where I work. So please, try to be happy for me - and note how good it is for our church when I return ready to lead with renewed vigor and vision (which happened in spades the last time). My time away will last three months, it will take place over the summer, and LFC-H will be well-supplied with internal and external excellent preaching during that time.
I also want to announce something to my friends in this blog - my sabbatical, and the special activities/speakers at LFC while I'm away, will be funded by an outside source. It won't cost LFC a dime, and I get to do some RIDICULOUSLY wonderful things we could otherwise never afford. I applied for (me and some ministry leaders at LFC), and won, a major grant for this purpose. It's called the National Clergy Renewal Program, and is funded by the Lilly Endowment. To my pastor friends, check out the link below and please apply some time in the future. I'd love to help you form a successful proposal.
The purposes of a sabbatical are personal and professional growth, as well as renewal of health. My sabbatical theme is church planting (since I did it, I coach church planters, we are going to start more new churches in the future, and I teach it and am serving to help our denomination turn into a church planting movement). The activities will include:
Renewal. Of vision and inspiration. I will re-visit Ireland, the home of my historical and most inspiritng mentor St. Patrick, and study the missional spread of the Gospel in the generation after Patrick, while I spend time on spiritual retreat at one of my favorite monasteries.
Rewind. To the first church planting movement. With my family, we will tour the missionary journeys of Paul in Turkey and Greece, focused on understanding the history and archaeology better. Both of our boys are actually history geeks, but we'll try to have some fun on the Greek islands to be sure its a great trip for all. This trip will wind up in Rome, where Paul did.
Fast Forward. To current church plants in post-Christian Europe. I hope to visit/do interviews at two current church plants in European capitals, which are measurably reaching post-Christian adults with the good news of Jesus. The US is decades behind Europe in this regard, but may also now be termed post-Christian. Our American churches must focus on mission to that growing population, instead of thinking we are 'succeeding' while only re-churching lapsed Christians.
Rest, Reflect. The family will get lots of time together after the Greece trip, some of that in Italy.
Like I said, ridiculous. Ridiculous generosity of our church that gives sabbaticals every seven years to director-level pastors and staff (Mitch and Kyle have been given one in the past). Ridiculous generosity of the Lilly Foundation to invest in the health of American clergy this way. Ridiculous excitement I have to be re-tooled to be more effective as a pastor for the future of our church together.
I hope you have something to be excited for in 2012, and maybe even one thing to be ridiculously excited about. If you'd like to read the press release and description of the grant I was awarded (who are the recipients, how much money is involved, why, etc.), here you go! Download Press_Release_-_National_Clergy_Renewal_Winners_2011