One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received came from a pastor in a South Australian Aboriginal town.  He said, “Never be afraid to re-invent yourself.” 

Being reinvented is hard.  It’s disorienting.  There’s time at the beginning when you don’t know where you’re headed, only that you can’t stay where you are.  Then there’s time in the middle when you’re really confused.  After a while, things start to clear up.  God’s path starts to shine brighter than all the other paths.  The future comes into clearer focus.  And pretty soon, you come out on the other side of the confusion and pain and growth, and you discover you are a new person.  A stronger, smarter, person.  A person who spies God working in your life more easily.  You’re a new person who God has called to do something new, and something amazing.

At least that’s been my experience.   

And in the past couple of years I’ve been wondering how congregations can nurture disciples instead of encouraging members to be consumers.  How do we challenge and support our leaders so that they grow in their abilities?  How do we bring up new leaders?  How does a pastor help a congregation grow, both in spiritual maturity and in numbers? 

So here I go again — following God’s call to get smarter and stronger, to become a more faithful disciple and better pastor.  

I’m applying for a doctoral program through Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Kentucky.  The “Doctor in Ministry,” or D.Min. is a three-year program designed for pastors in busy parish ministries.  It requires about ten hours a week of reading and writing, three weeks on campus each year, and a thesis project.    For the next three years, I’ll sleep a little less, the kids will be with the sitter a little more, and when I go to continuing education events, I’ll go to Louisville. 

I’ll be studying “Advanced Practices in Ministry,” which is a fancy way of saying “Leadership.”  I’ll be learning (and practicing) how to encourage you each deeper into your walk with Christ.  I’ll be learning (and practicing) how we can form our congregation to more closely resemble God’s dream for us.  I’ll be learning (and practicing) how to help us connect more broadly with the people in our towns. 

These next three years, I’ll be investing in myself.  And I’ll be investing myself deeply in you.  I know that God is calling us to something delightful and full of grace.  I want to help you discover God in a new way in your lives, and to help as you listen for God’s call and find that “thing” that makes you burst with excitement.