Friday, September 23, 2005

7 Stepping Stones of Faith

Entering the room to get started on the Institute for New Church Starts and Revitalization the 12 of us who came in didn't all know each other. This isn't any real surprise, the conference consists of over 600 active clergy and this was designed to be a cross-section of sorts. Since I have done camps for as many years as I have, and been a youth worker for way longer than I like to admit, get-to-know-you games and such are of interest to me. This time the opening introduction was to gather in threes and share the things you needed to leave behind to be present with the group, followed by a time of prayer. Helpful and encouraging time.

Then we continued with time to get to know one another. We were asked to find someone we were not as familiar with (there were a couple of married couples in the room, including mine) and share the 7 stepping stones of faith from birth to current with your partner. We then took those and shared them with another pair, where at the end of the exercise you had been introduced to three other people pretty clearly.

Let me share mine with you:

1) Baptism. Though I cannot tell you the time and date of my baptism I know that it is a part of the covenant I share with God and members of the faith community. I was baptised as an infant in a Presbyterian Church and am still acutely aware of the love of God that was opened to me in new ways at that time.

2) Salvation experience. I remember being about 5 or 6 in Bishop during a VBS session and going forward for an altar call at the Nazarene Church where I gave my life to God, thanking Jesus for the sacrifice that was made for me on the cross.

3) A conversation with my dad. I don't know whether this conversation is something my dad remembers, and I don't know that it matters whether he does or not, because it serves as a reminder that we never know the moment of any relationship that may change someone else's life. Sitting in the back of the car before church I had my head bowed when Dad came out to drive us to church. He asked whether I was alright and I said I was asking Jesus into my heart again. He simply said to me that it is a onetime request that does not need to be repeated. Assurance of salvation is as great a gift as there is.

4) Camp. I have gone to camp every year of my life except 1...the year we moved from Arcadia to Bishop. Camp has shaped me both as a camper and as a counselor/dean.

5) Youth Group and College Ministries. I think I covered about as many of the campus ministry opportunities at Emory as possible, with the exception of 2, which was congruent with my High School experience where I went to three different youth groups in three different denominations in one stretch of High School. The varieties of Christian faith expressions are beautiful in my experience and appreciated for the various ways we can learn more about our relationship with God and Jesus Christ.

6) Seminary. Never have I before or since had such an assurance that the Methodist Church was where I was supposed to serve my call to ministry. Repeatedly in seminary I found myself thinking, "Wow! Those are the words for the things I have been thinking and couldn't quite put in a framework."

7) Marriage and new church appointment. There is nothing so formative in faith as transitions. To create a marriage and take on the responsibility of being the pastor in charge (after 5 years as the associate) in a new location in the course of two months will definitely help define the faith journey. A very powerful stepping stone in my faith/spiritual formation.

What came to me as a revelation in this process was the affirmation that once again "I am a Methodist". By this I mean that I believe that faith formation is a process. Also, to paraphrase at the height of paraphrase, I thought of Wesley's statements; "think and let think" and "in essentials unity, in all else freedom", followed by "if your heart is as my heart, take my hand". I thank God for the many who have held my hand along the process of my faith journey.

I pray you will take the time to consider your own stepping stones. The best part of any church start/revitalization is the pastor, or member, who is committed to his or her own faith. Learn about yourself by finding someone to share these with, or share them here in the comment section. I will be in prayer for you too, and think about the excitement of others joining the conversation.



At September 24, 2005, Blogger said...

Seven Stepping Stones

1. Growing up. Church played a huge role in my life as I was growing up. While my ancestry is Heinz 57, my religious life was very unique. My mother Irish Roman Catholic and my Father is Scottish United Methodist. My Great-Uncles on my mother’s side were staunch Knights of Columbus and my dad’s father was an active Mason. Their marriage in 1967 was in the wake of Vatican II and presented a unique opportunity for both of them. I was baptized in the Catholic Church, went through catechism and First Holy Communion. A normal Sunday for us began in Sunday School and Worship at the Methodist Church, Noon Mass, Ice Skating (my father was a professional Ice Skater) and then both my parents served as Youth Coordinators in the Methodist Church on Sunday Nights. I remember loving the open table of the Methodist Church and the mystery of the celebration of Eucharist. I remember the smells, and images and haunting chants of a good Friday Mass and the welcoming smile of my 4th grade Sunday School teacher, Marie Wilson (Ken’s Mother). I had a blessed childhood filled with love and God’s Amazing Grace.
2. UMYF. In my teen years I was blessed by many different individuals. My parents were dedicated youth workers which allowed me to see lay ministry in action. We did the Sierra Service Project, Summer Camps, outreach to the poor and hungry, leadership training, retreats, clown ministry, bell ministry, choir and so many other creative things that my parents and others in the church allowed me to experience. I was allowed to preach my first sermon at the age of 12 and then had several others over the following 9 years that I continued worshiping there. Rev. David French his wife Connie (they planted the Temecula Church after leaving Corona) were awesome witnesses to Christ’s grace and love in this world., Peggy Rubel lead the Youth group for a while and Sandra Olwine, who was studying at CST, served as a youth counselor. Once again, I was very blessed in my youth and I knew that God was calling me into the pastoral ministry at 17.
3. A conversation. When I was 17 I spoke with my pastor about pursuing my call to ministry. His comments to me shaped my life. He told me that I needed to get some life experience before answering God’s call. He said that I needed to get my undergraduate degree, get married, buy a house, have children and live life for a while and then see if God was still calling me. That was some of the wisest advice that I have ever been given. I believe that he discerned that I was so close to the church that I needed to develop my own faith before embarking on a life of ministry to others.
4. The roadmap to destruction, a barn and redemption. When I was 23, I was asked to help start a youth group in a new church plant. Things were going very well for the first 6-7 months. The youth group was growing rapidly and we were having 12-15 youth every Sunday and up to 20 on special events. Then Soccer season started and I only had 2-3 each week. I felt as if I was wasting the churches money and so I left the position and left the church for a couple years. My wife and I bought a home in Lake Elsinore and for several years felt empty as I was outside the church. I was told that the Lake Elsinore Church was meeting somewhere outside the city in a barn, but I couldn’t find the church. Then one day on the way to camping, I passed by a little converted barn with a flame and cross and I decided to visit the church. On that first Sunday I tried to sit alone, but an elderly lady doing needlepoint moved up next to me and said no-one should sit alone in church. When the pastor read the scripture for the week, he began to talk about a sower of seeds. Then during the sermon, it seemed as if the message was pointed directly at me and the pastor seemed to be looking right through me. When the message was over I knew that I was home and that I needed to be the seed cast on good soil. The field was plowed during my early days, the soil was ready and I was waiting for seed to be cast.
5. I’m not sure if I can fit that in. After having our 2nd child, I had dropped out of my undergraduate program and I knew that I had to finish my degree. Just before walking into that converted barn, I had applied and was re-admitted into the Civil Engineer Program at Cal-Poly Pomona. It was very tough living in Lake Elsinore, working in San Dimas and going to school in Pomona for 3 years. My senior year I took 20, 18 & 15 units. I slept on the floor of my office in San Dimas 2-3 nights a week for the last 2 years of that program. In the fall of my senior year my Pastor asked me to join a Disciple Bible Study. I really wrestled with trying to fit one more thing into my schedule, but after many long nights of no sleep I said yes. It was during that study that my call to ministry re-emerged. At the end of the Disciple Bible Study, 10 of the 11 people involved told me that I should be a Pastor.
6. Walking confirmation. I spoke to pastor and several really close friends about my call, but asked them all not to say anything to anyone. My wife was not very warm to the idea of becoming a pastor’s wife and so I decide to work through the process slowly. It was during my Walk to Emmaus that everything that I knew deep down inside, but didn’t want to admit was confirmed. Then for the first time, I made a public declaration of my intent to enter into the ministry. In that moment of declaration that I was truly transformed. I could no longer hide from the call that I had felt almost all my life.
7. Called to a life in Ministry. My life radically changed that week. I had quit my job the day that I left for the walk to Emmaus and when I returned I started a new job. I was asked to serve on the District Board of Congregational Development and then the following year I was asked to be the chair of the District Board. A week after accepting the chair of the board, the DS called me up and asked me if I would be the District Lay Leader. I accepted both positions with the caveat that I could only serve as District Lay Leader for 1 year because I was planning on attending seminary. Serving the District and being on every committee in the District except the Board of Ordained Ministry opened my eyes to how our system works. Serving on both the Conference Board of Laity and the Conference Board of Congregational Development, my heart was warmed as I experienced the connectional system that I love in the United Methodist Church. It was while serving on the District and Conference Boards of Congregational Development that I realized I might have the gifts and graces to journey into the wilderness and sow seeds on fertile ground.

David McGlocklin


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