The Taser's Edge

My Summer Vacation 2007
March 21, 2007, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

One month minus 1 day =

In the M.Div. program at Duke, one of the requirements is a pair of field education placements.  A field ed placement is like an internship, but in a ministry setting, rather than a business setting or anything else you picture when I say “internship.” (A summer in San Francisco's fashion industry, for instance). 

And it pays well, due to some tobacco wealth flowing into a thing called the Duke Endowment (yes, that Duke, although maybe a grandson of THE Duke).  This endowment insures that rural (United Methodist) churches in North Carolina are able to have pastors and keep their doors open in general.  It also means that for a ten week full-time internship I will make $8500.  Which is better than what I will make in my first actual United Methodist appointment, proportionally speaking.

There is an involved process, an application, an interview.  And then they look at a huge pool of students alongside a huge pool of churches and try to find a good fit.  Generally, they tell you where you are going.  Somewhat scary, but helpful for getting used to the idea of our future.  I actually don't feel like it was a lottery where I got assigned.  (For those unfamiliar with the United Methodist system, this appointment process is actually similar to what happens to United Methodist pastors.  The technical title is itineracy, and what it means is that the bishop of your geographic conference appoints you to a church.  It is not a call to you from the particular church, and it is not a job interview process.  And you have very little (usually no) say in the matter.)  And yes, I did get assigned.

I can’t remember the name of the town at this particular moment, but it is about 45 minutes west of Durham (and perhaps it's better that you don't know, for future bloggin purposes–don't even try to guess what UMC it could be, because there are literally dozens).  This is a recent church plant (in secular terms, a “church plant” is a new franchise of the church, except that a UM church is owned by the denomination, kind of like a Wal-Mart, whereas Baptist churches are locally owned and operated, like a Dunkin' Donut) with a contemporary focus.  My job will be preaching a couple of times, working with the worship team, and then also heading up an evangelism drive into their surrounding areas.

I like it because it sounds like too much for me.  What do I know about evangelism and actually leading worship?  But, I really do want to head up some more worship stuff (more guitar? a return to bass?) because it's a valuable skill for my own (pardon the personal ownership language (“my own”)–I don't actually mean it) future churches.

And I have thought quite a bit about evangelism lately.  This makes me feel vulnerable to my readers, but here it is: Jesus' command to his disciples to spread the Gospel is as authoritative and binding on modern-day Christians as as it was for those first century Christians.  My evangelistic experience is fairly extreme for most people: Go to Mardi Gras and engage people in conversations about Jesus.  But I don’t think that the ministry I have done this with does evangelism as well as it can\could\should be done, because it seems to confuse Jesus’ command to make disciples for a command to make converts.  There is a big difference between these two things, and a church involved in its local community is the ideal place to make disciples.  That’s my view at least.  Plus, every church should be doing stuff like that in its area, not just new church plants, and I can learn stuff here for “my own” future churches.

To make sure the record is set straight, initiating a conversation about Jesus with someone who has not previously expressed an interest in Him is among the things that I find very difficult and painful.  It does not fit with my Americanism (the “everyone-has-a-right-to-believe-what-s/he-wants/dp-to-believe/do” variety, not the “please-tap-my-phone-and-check-my-library-account-to-see-how/what-a-patriotic/good boy-I've-been” flavor), my intellectual bent, my introverted nature and outright shyness, or my often post-modern outlook on things.  There is a joke in there, but I do feel a cognitive dissonance between my faith and these other things.

What also interests me about this first field ed. experience is that it is a chance to find and develop my own ideas of what a church should look like, and how I will retain existing structures while overhauling other things at the church to which I will be appointed in two short years.  Two years—that is really exciting to me.

And the fact that it is exciting to me is a beautifully unexpected surprise.

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