Monday, February 09, 2015

1. There are key moments of opportunity.

Before I transition back to teaching and writing, I thought I would try to capture some of the things I think I've learned these last six years as Dean. I want to go roughly chronologically.

The first is that there are moments of opportunity. They come and go. If you're at the right place at the right time and have the courage to act, great things can happen. You can call them God-moments. You can call them kairos moments. I'm a Wesleyan. I don't think God always manipulates these. But I believe he does sometimes.

What was the key moment in the founding of Wesley Seminary? IWU had considered starting a seminary several times for the Wesleyan Church in both the 80s and 90s. It came somewhat close in the late 90s, with a task force that actually drafted a proposal. Each time, the question of money seems to have derailed it. I might also add that Asbury Seminary had served the denomination so well over the years that many wondered whether it was really worth it to go to such an effort. Did we even have the resources as a denomination?

So what was the key moment that led to the start of a seminary? Here are some of my thoughts:
  • An undergraduate religion faculty and graduate ministry faculty (basically, Russ Gunsalus and Bob Whitesel) who were enthusiastic about starting a seminary.
  • The financial stability of IWU in the early 2000s, coupled with a new President (Henry Smith) who came to see the Seminary as a matter of mission.
  • A somewhat cooling of the Wesleyan Church's closeness with Asbury. I personally believe that if Jeff Greenway had remained president, Wesley Seminary probably wouldn't exist.
  • A potential relationship between IWU and another seminary that fell through. Keith Drury raised the question, "If we only have one seminary card to play in the next 10 years, how do we want to play it?" This situation was the trigger.
So you had people who were enthusiastic to do it (faculty). You had a leader who had the will to do it (Henry Smith). You had a university with the resources to do it (IWU). Potential obstacles were not present. And there was a trigger event.

The moment might easily have passed. A year or two later, President Smith might have been deep into other projects. This moment came just as he was about to become president. President Greenway of Asbury had been reaching out to Wesleyans when his attention was diverted. If he had continued, there might not have been any felt need.

So that's my first take-away. There are moments of opportunity. When they come, you either act or they pass you by. Some people never get these moments. Others miss them because they do not discern the kairos moment.


Rob Henderson said...

As a former lead pastor, and now an assistant, I am fascinated with the three key factors that seem to hold true in local church ministry:

1) People who were enthusiastic to do it (faculty).

2) A leader who had the will to do it (Henry Smith).

3) A university with the resources to do it (IWU).

4) Potential obstacles were not present.

As a youth worker/pastor for over 10 years and then as lead pastor for 14 years, I have watched, with amazement at times, how local churches will press forward with a "dream" and the seemingly fulfillment of that dream too often crashes or struggles. The result too often leads to an extreme burden on the local church, the pastor will often “lose vision” and move on, or the start-up of a ministry eventually will be unsuccessful because the impetus (vision + resources) for the start-up gets lost somewhere.

What I see for a local church strategy is this: 1) The lead pastor believes in the Big Idea; 2) The Local Board of Administration supports the Big Idea; 3) The local Church possesses the resources (people, place, and/or finances) 4) Potential obstacles are not present- lack of support from DBA, support diminishes among the people, key leader leaves, and/or major financial support evaporates).

Some of my observation comes from personal experience when we started a Hispanic church ministry. We met with incredible stress with pushing this much needed ministry (and we never did anything without District support) but then battling for finances over and over and over through the years. (We began the project in 2006.) However, praise the Lord, the ministry is still in place mostly due to the key leader (the pastor from Colombia) never giving up and core of converts (gloriously saved and sanctified) who have never given up either as well as the local church and many others offering support.

Thanks the Lord for all the IWU Seminary leaders have accomplished, especially for pastors like me.

Ken Schenck said...

Great insights, Rob!