My journey through the D.Min.program was marked by growing insight and motivation to strive for excellence for myself and those to whom I minister. In particular, the coursework and dissertation project enhanced my view on ministry in an urban African American community in five distinct ways.
First, the Congregational Systems Inventory we employed in an initial class increased my understanding of the various dimensions of leadership and how excesses within any one of the seven dimensions, as outlined by the Alban Institute, can have significant impact on congregational vitality and operations.
Second, the research aspect of the program was an eye-opening experience and brought to me a keen awareness of the problems and issues facing the African American community and the churches that attempt to minister in an urban environment. There are many issues such as health, environmental, and social issues that are more prevalent within the black community and they make ministry much more difficult than in an average middle-class setting. I discovered there are no "magic bullets" and any attempts at making an impact must involve partnering with other agencies and organizations that have expertise in those areas.
Third, through the combination of the survey from the Alban Institute and the small focus groups I conducted, I have a better awareness of the DNA of my congregation. I also found, when comparing our results with median score of other churches throughout America, we are not very different from other congregations.
Fourth, this project increased my desire for self improvement and excellence in the ministry, while also leading my congregation to seek excellence and to live out its values on a day-to-day basis. In order for us to truly become "ambassadors for Christ," we must have a personal commitment and a bias for aiding others on this journey.
So even though I had reservations about the impact [the program would have] on my time, I was at the point that I really wanted to do it and now I am developing a more robust background for my teaching and preaching.Finally, this entire process of the project and dissertation taught me the process of viewing a situation, reviewing literature and history related to the situation, understanding its theological implications, and making informed decisions about the situation. This journey caused me to look beyond esoteric information and really delve into what is going on within a local congregation. Appearances can be deceiving, but when detailed data gathering, analysis, and comparisons are done in a structured, repeatable way, actions toward improvement can occur.
How has your D.Min. research informed your ministry?
Anthony D. Bonds, D.Min. ‘13, is senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rochester, N.Y. His dissertation was: Urban Black Church Leadership: An Andragogical Approach to Developing and Nurturing Leaders Within the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Holistic is the best single word I have for the D.Min. program at Northeastern Seminary. At one and the same time, the program is intellectually challenging and rigorous. It takes a holistic approach in terms of integrating classic theology, with an aggressive, missional, and global orientation in every single course offering, all while spiritual formation is placed in the very center of and throughout the program. NES "hits it out of the park" by bringing in the most outstanding scholars and practitioners for special course modules and conferences to supplement its own outstanding faculty.
Another great strength I found is the way doctoral candidates are allowed and given the option from the very beginning of the program to integrate our particular research and ministry interest into each of the final assignments of each course, enabling us to think through and further develop our specific interest, and filter it through each course offering, along with the input of the instructors and program colleagues. This is an outstanding exercise in doing holistic missional theology.
One of the other notable characteristics of the program is that all of the great sub-traditions of Christianity are highly respected in the NES community—including the way racial and cultural diversity is highly esteemed. My Pentecostal tradition is embraced as a vital and important part of the greater catholic church, both in the academic material and dialogue as well as experientially.
Finally, and rounding out the holism of the NES experience, NES does all this in the framework of truly authentic Christian community. I personally faced the dying and death of my wife throughout the course of the program (and several hospitalizations for myself), and yet I was surrounded again and again by genuine and practical care by not only my D.Min. colleagues but perhaps especially by the faculty and staff. This demonstrated to me that the word “community” was not simply an abstract theological term and idea but a value lived out in extremely warm and heart-felt ways by those leading the program.
What word would you use to describe the strength of a D.Min. degree?
Bob Tice, D.Min. ‘12, is pastor of RiverRock Church in Buffalo, N.Y. His dissertation: Envisioning
and Implementing a Theology and Praxis of Unity-in-Diversity in a Core-City and Multicultural Local Church in the Context of Globalization and Glocalization.
When coaches develop a team, they want to create chemistry—by finding the naïve genius (talent and intelligence) of the players and by knowing each player well so that each one can function optimally in the execution of the play book.
Teams in churches are not dissimilar, as youth leaders can best lead when vision is shared and team members feel safe to express ideas and be creative in implementing the vision.
Teams often function like a family and individuals are prone to play the same role on the team in the present as they did in their family of origin growing up. For example, the star of the family may want to still be in that role. Or the peace-maker may still play that role on the team. Someone experiencing violent family conflict may be aggressive or have aversion to conflict. The cultural background regarding rules of how to fight may play out over and over in the present, i.e. no emotion is ever shown, or wild abandon with emotion is the norm— or no one younger can ever win.
Back stories also provide insight into behavior. An individual’s own trauma experiences may influence his behavior on a team, and a leader may react poorly without understanding why someone is so controlling or overbearing, or why someone always defers to everyone else, or why there seems to be no tolerance for mistakes. Knowing that someone had been abandoned by a father, for example, may help the leader understand the need for someone to have constant reassurance before making a decision.
Even the youth leader’s own background may play out in how he/she leads. When leaders have been praised for having lots of ideas and getting the job done efficiently and quickly, they may tend to take over, make decisions alone and quickly, micro-manage, or problem solve or work quickly, leaving others behind.
Knowing personal stories about team members growing-up experiences helps leaders understand and interact with more compassion and wisdom, and be more vulnerable about sharing their own mistakes.
Kathy Elliott was guest speaker at the Northeastern Seminary Youth Ministry Summit in February 2014. She has counseled hundreds of individuals, couples and family members since founding Agape Counseling Associates 35 years ago
1. Show Up
If your first reaction to reading this was, “Duh!,” then you get it. Sometimes students can think they are qualified to be a student leader because they are popular. This is frustrating. The truth about student leaders is that they serve. You cannot underestimate the value of faithfulness, dedication, and a servant-leader heart. Showing up is the first step to being a student leader. If you aren’t around, it is hard to know if you are invested. Come, serve, and be faithful.
2. Be Confident (But Not Arrogant)
Is there anything more annoying than an arrogant know-it-all? Probably not. On the other hand, it is also frustrating when a student does not walk in the confidence of Christ. At some point every student must move past their nerves and step up into the role God is calling them into. It is OK if you are still struggling with questions, or even if you have struggles with sin. Often the enemy wants you to believe you are not good enough. But you are. You are created in the image of God and can be his hands and feet. Walk in that truth and in the confidence that Christ is enough!
Truth is, I don’t want anyone on my team who isn’t after this. Integrity is who you are behind closed doors—when no one is looking. And part of integrity is simply being authentic with who you are and where you struggle. And integrity is owning up to your mistakes—no matter what. Integrity-filled people understand that it is not about them, but it is about loving God and loving others.
Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
4. Know Your Kryptonite
Every one of us must be aware of what can make us fall. We must realize that there is an enemy who is out to destroy. But we have a Living God who can and has conquered all. Christ in us gives us victory. But we must also be aware of our shortcomings—and set up people and systems to help us succeed in the times where we feel weak. For me, I’ve got a group of other youth pastors I get together with monthly to talk through struggles and temptations to make sure I stay on track. I can’t tell you how helpful this is!
As student leaders, we must take our influence seriously. Voltaire said that, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Whether we are a professional athlete, a parent, or a student we all have influence. Whether we asked for it or not, it is there. We must intentionally think about how to use that influence to help others find the Light.
5. Laugh a Little
Seriously! No, not seriously. You get the point. Relax. Be joyful. Have fun. Don’t be so intense all the time. There’s a time and a place to be serious (for sure!), but it is equally as important to have a good time. That true joy can help you stay sane as well as the others around you.
6. Be Encouraging.
It is such a discouraging world. From the news headlines to people’s attitudes to hallway bullies it can be very dark. We’ve got to encourage every person around us. That includes those above us in leadership—even when we think they are not doing as good a job as we could do.
One of my heroes, Doug Fields, is a youth pastor. He was talking with a lead pastor who was leading a huge church. He was literally reaching hundreds, even thousands, each week. Doug talked to the pastor after the message and said “Man every service kept getting better than the last. Thank you so much, that was so encouraging and challenging!” What’s interesting is that the pastor texted Doug later and said, “Thanks for coming and supporting—your kind words came at the perfect timing. I really needed that!”
Really? HE needed that? But he was supposed to be the confident leader on stage who had done this longer than I’ve even been alive! But he needed to be encouraged.
We all need encouragement. And we need it all the time.
7. Refuse Complacency
Student leaders pursue excellence and reject apathy. Apathy is a chronic problem in our generation. Apathy is where you show a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. Peers praise apathy because it makes you look cool, but in reality, apathy is a defense mechanism against disappointment. But we must move past our fears of standing out and be passionate. Of course it is risky, but in order to make a difference, you’re going to need to refuse complacency and apathy. Ghandi said it best: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
8. Empower Others
As a leader, we must focus on helping others succeed more than on our own success. In fact, I think we need to change the definition of success. Success is not just more followers—it is how those followers are succeeding. Can others move forward without you when you are gone? This is, of course, the opposite of what business school taught me. Business school said that as a leader, I must keep control. But the Kingdom model says that power is not for me and not about me. Instead I want to do everything I can to help others succeed. What’s interesting is that the more you share with others, the more opportunities become available.
So how do we empower others? We start by identifying them and reaching out to them. We must never underestimate the power of an invite. Say something like, “Hey I see a lot of leadership potential in you and I’d really like you to try out __________.” Invitations are affirming. Invitations give a statement that that person is valuable. Invitations cast vision for what could be. And invitations must never be self-seeking, but instead focus on how to help that person grow and succeed. Invite and empower!
9. Be a Follower
You are never the top dog. Ever. There is always someone greater. And if you a follower of Jesus, you know you always have a leader to guide you. This should be comforting! This world doesn’t depend on just you! And if someone is in authority over you, respect it! Don’t undermine it. Followership is a big deal in leadership.
10. Have Vision
Know where you are taking others. Sometimes the best way to get clear vision is to step back and step out for a brief season. What is working well—and what is not? How do we improve? Listen to the trusted voices around you (not just the loud ones). Next, take this vision of where you are going and clearly communicate it. Be sure that in this vision you leave no one behind and that you treat every member of the team as valuable.
11. Protect Your Team
Finally, know that there are wolves out there that are ready to devour. Do not let them! You may need to take the bullet for someone else’s mistakes sometimes. NEVER throw someone on your team under the bus. Ensure the critic that you will fix the problem and then address the issue in private. And don’t be afraid to tell the wolves they have to leave. The team is too important. And so is the vision.
God is with you. Now go be a student leader!
Jonathan Sigmon was guest speaker at the Northeastern Seminary Youth Ministry Summit in February 2014. He is a youth pastor in Chili, N.Y. who loves seeing students develop their unique giftings for Christ and is extremely passionate about the Gospel and raising up student leaders.
A guest post by Jamal Smith, M.A. '11
Three years ago, a friend, John, and I were having drinks at the pub in Rochester, Old Toad. While we were there, we came across another friend. Dan was a self proclaimed Buddhist-shamanist, a blend of Buddhist philosophy and shaman spirituality. During our conversation, Dan explained to us his belief that it was possible for humans to change shape. He used the example of glass being a liquid caught in solid state, yet still being liquid.
We listened to his beliefs and afterward excused ourselves as we had to leave. While walking back to the car, John finally expressed his opinion of Dan’s religion as crazy. My response was that I agreed with him; shape-changing made as much sense as the idea of someone being raised from the dead. John was quiet for a moment, and then replied, “I see your point.”
There are certain ideas and beliefs that are common within the Christian community and seem normal. Most Christians do not think twice about the existence of God and accept the inability to prove it. The resurrection of the dead is as real as death itself. When we hear other religious ideas however, we tend to ridicule them as absurd and illogical.
Rarely is it taken into account that many of the revered articles of the Christian faith seem just as ridiculous to the average secular listener as Dan’s belief of shape-changing seemed to John. Christians want their stories and faith to be heard credibly—we don’t like the idea of having Jesus’ resurrection disregarded or laughed at.
In Luke 6:37 (NIV), Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.”
This is an ideal that needs to be taught regarding other peoples’ beliefs. Condemnation is not the goal. Recall instances when godly people committed “heathen” acts. Judges 11 tells the story of Jepthath, who swore to God to sacrifice the first thing that left his house if he returned victorious from battle. Jepthath had the victory, and what greeted him from his house was his daughter. Though he was grieved, he followed through with his word and sacrificed her. More notably, it is not said that God tried to stop him, nor was the grieved father punished or rebuked.
It seems to me that Christians must also take into account that, perhaps, myths that are ridiculed may somehow have elements of truth. For example, when exploring the risks of sex in space, recent studies from NASA showed that prolonged time in zero G resulted in a decreased sex drive for astronauts.[i],[ii] The connection between Earth and sex was also evident in some early religions—sexual religious practices of the worship of Baal were designed to encourage the god to make the earth fertile, producing crops for the season.[iii]
All this is not to say that all beliefs must be accepted and believed. Rather, in addition to discernment, it is to say that a certain amount of respect when hearing others’ beliefs, regardless of how crazy or illogical it may seem to us, is in order. In a pluralistic world Christians need to exercise this practice or otherwise, to twist the phrase, Judge and you shall be judged. Condemn and you shall be condemned.
Jamal Smith, M.A. ‘11, works as a consultant for Sutherland Global Services and is a volunteer member of the Commission of Christian Muslim relations and the Interfaith Forum.
This month we will be sharing a collection of short readings by Northeastern Seminary alumni as they reflect on and rejoice in the gifts of God's grace and the signs of Christ present during this Advent Season. Today's guest post was written by Thomas Worth.
“No one has gone up to heaven
except the One who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven…”
John’s Gospel 3:13. Jerusalem Bible
The early news wends its way…
The first preaching of the preachers say,
“The kingdom of heaven is near!”
“Heaven’s kingdom is here!”
What is it like?
What is it like—for the One who is in heaven—
(We could almost say the One who makes heaven—heaven!)
What is it like for Him to come down from heaven?
And what is more like heaven when He comes down to us?
Is heaven there or here?
Where is heaven?
With the archangels and seraphim?
Or in the womb of Mary—
And then with His birth:
The stable where ox and ass and cattle feed?
Are the angels leaving heaven to sing their song over the hills of Bethlehem?
Or do they feel as they draw near the place of the Nativity
That they are coming to heaven—
To that Holiest Place where He who was with God in the beginning
And is God—
Is become flesh and is dwelling among us?
Think of it!
He who is at the heart of the throne in heaven,
Angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, powers and dominions
Worshiping and adoring Him,
Hearing melodies and words that we can only dimly guess,
Songs so beautiful that our hearts would break for wonder if we heard them,
A cataract of praise where He is able to discern
Every strand of song from every single singer—
Now plunges Himself into utter silence
Until His nascent bit of embryonic humanity forms ears to hear
The flow of blood, the swish of fluid, the beating of His mother’s heart.
Think of it!
He who can see everything
And dwells in the Light from which heaven and earth flee away,
The Light to which no one can approach—
Steps down into the darkness of our beginnings and our wanderings.
He becomes blind until he opens his eyes as a newborn
Unable to focus on a new world,
Lit by a torch or an oil lamp
Or perhaps only the light of the sinking moon
That reveals the shapes and shadows of manger and stall,
The misty breath of the cattle in the stable,
The nearness of His mother’s breast
And the blurred outlines of her eyes and lips.
Think of it!
He who inhabits eternity
And for whom the nations are a drop in the bucket,
Who fills infinity enough to be everywhere,
Now confines Himself to the growing seed within Mary.
He who is present in all places at all times,
Now becomes local and limited,
Centering Himself down into a human baby,
Once upon a time…
Think of it!
The Word who speaks with the Father and the Holy Spirit
In the primeval counsels of eternity;
Who speaks creation into existence;
Who, in conversing with the thrones and dominions,
The angelic intelligences of the cosmos,
Imparts to them what little of His knowledge they can bear;
Who speaks and knows all that God knows—
Now relinquishes all knowledge of Himself or anything else,
Knows only the trauma of being born into a strange, cold world,
No longer knows who He is,
Knows only what every human being coming into the world knows,
And like us all, with His inarticulate cries
Expresses His distress, hunger, thirst and need
Because, like us all, it is all He can say
And like us all, it is the only way He can begin to breathe
The cold night air into which He is born.
Think of it!
He who as the Only-begotten God
Wields all power and rules with all authority,
Commanding principalities and galaxies,
Governing quarks and quasars, sparrows and rainbows,
Lets go of it all and comes down from heaven,
Losing everything, becomes weak and wanting,
A baby in His mother’s arms.
And yet, even though He lets heaven go
And comes down,
It seems that heaven would not be bereft of Him
And so follows Him to earth
And is here—
With a cloud of witnesses at His birth!
Thomas Worth, M.Div. ‘03, D.Min., ’07, is pastor of Community Covenant Church in Manlius, N.Y. and also serves as program site coordinator for NES in Syracuse. He has been a poet of the Incarnation and married to his wife, Marsha, for almost 40 years. He has been a part-time missionary to Bulgaria for over 20 years. Marsha and he have two married daughters and four grandchildren.
This month we will be sharing a collection of short readings by Northeastern Seminary alumni as they reflect on and rejoice in the gifts of God's grace and the signs of Christ present during this Advent Season. Today's guest post was written by Tami Thurber.
Here in the Northeast Advent occurs at the beginning of a gray, frigid winter season. The landscape looks lifeless, and sometimes that is how we feel because, unfortunately, we all face winter times in our lives. Perhaps you are there now. Life-changing decisions loom in front of you, but you dread acting because the strength required is more than the strength you have. Perhaps your winter stems from an ongoing but cold, colorless faith. Maybe your winter has self-absorption blanketing your relationship with God as snow covers all reminders of life. Whatever your winter looks like, your response to it can be shaped by the responses of those who experienced the first nativity.
After Gabriel gave Mary the news of her upcoming pregnancy, Mary responded with honest humility. Although unsure of her own well-being or the baby’s future, Mary did not allow herself to be overwhelmed with questions, doubts, or even worry. “I am the Lord’s servant,” she affirmed (Luke 1:38). Soon afterward, Gabriel informed Joseph that he should still marry his fiancé because she had done nothing immoral. What was his first response? Humble, immediate obedience (Matthew 1:24). Although both Mary and Joseph would be faced with many difficult winter months ahead, their humble acceptance of the circumstances and reliance on God’s strength girded them for what was to come.
As the Advent story continues, we see others whose first response was vastly different than Mary and Joseph’s. Rather than sober obedience, these people’s emotions were on fire. John the Baptist, still in his mother’s womb, leaped for joy when he first encountered the unborn Jesus (Luke 1:45). Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit who led her to boisterously bless this baby (Luke 1:41). Even the educated Magi dropped to their knees in worship of this Christ child (Matthew 2:11).
Others, including Simeon, Anna, and the people who heard the shepherd’s report, responded by turning their eyes from the scene in front of them to focus on the God who organized this whole event (Luke 2:28-32, 2:38, 2:18). Praise and thanksgiving freely flowed to the God who planned and executed this joyous birth.
During this season there are so many ways we too can respond to Jesus’ birth. Perhaps there is something in your life that you are sure God is calling you to do or think. Take courage with Mary and Joseph as you step out in humble, submissive obedience. Perhaps your faith has settled into a cold winter routine. Use this season to reignite your passion into a blazing fire like John and Elizabeth’s. Or maybe you have become so focused on yourself—your harried schedule, your hurts, your troubles—that you need to use some precious Advent time to meditate not on what you need but on who God is. We have been given this gift of an Advent season at the beginning of some long winter months. May we respond to this gift not with exhausted survival but by mirroring those who first experienced this miraculous event.
Tami Thurber, M.A. ‘09, co-author Handing It Down: Teaching Your Children the Basic Truths of Faith; jr./sr. high English and Bible teacher at Oneonta Community Christian School; adjunct professor at Davis College, Johnson City, N.Y.; wife and mom in Oneonta, N.Y.
This month we will be sharing a collection of short readings by Northeastern Seminary alumni as they reflect on and rejoice in the gifts of God's grace and the signs of Christ present during this Advent Season. Today's guest post was written by Marsha Bolton Rivers.
I work with words. My job is to immerse myself in them as in a swimming pool. Every day I jump in, splash around, and explore the water like a child on a hot summer’s afternoon, searching for small toys or loose change that might have sunk to the tiled floor.
Once I have collected the best words and phrases I can find, my next task is to dry off, stand at my loom, and weave—weave the rescued symbols into tapestries of meaning. Tell the story of the pool in a way that will entice more swimmers and then wrap them in a warm, dry, sweet-smelling towel.
Newspaper customers, would-be scholars, expectant teens and cancer patients. An unlikely assortment of pool party invitees? Not for me. These have been my word readers. I was first a journalist, then a college recruiter, next the leader of a crisis pregnancy center, and now a fundraiser-publicist for my local hospice. In all of my professional situations so far, I have gravitated toward word-working, delving, discovering and displaying the choicest representations of communities, aspirations, the miracle of life, and the inevitability of death.
“The mission of Hospice of Orleans is to embrace those facing advanced illness with the optimal levels of comfort, compassion and expertise.” Five months into my newest position, I can quickly quote this statement. I use it daily in grant applications, press releases, newsletter articles, and appeal letters. I inherited the mission—that is, I didn’t have a part in crafting it, and perhaps I’d tweak the wording if I could. But I didn’t fill the pool. I just swim in it. And when I splash around in this sentence, the word I grab first is “embrace.”
I’m not from a huggy family, mind you. The Boltons are British by heritage, exhibiting the stoicism to match the stereotype. Not that I wasn’t lavishly loved. I was. But not like my next door neighbor friend, growing up in an Italian Catholic household where throngs of relatives were forever coming and going, exchanging hearty hugs and sloppy kisses. I liked letting them “love on me,” foreign as it felt.
To embrace is to be with (em-) and to support (-brace). It’s the perfect verb to describe what Hospice does, and to invite other swimmers. Because families treading the dangerous waters of cancer, or heart disease, or any of the other scary illnesses that take our loved ones’ lives, truly need companionship and help. Unfortunately, people often make the mistake of withdrawing from families swimming in crisis. We don’t know what to say; we don’t know how to help; we politely keep our distance and give people the space we think they desire.
Thank the Lord for not leaving us alone in the treacherous ocean of this sin-sick world! “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Luke 5:31) That’s us. By sending the best possible Word into our midst, Jesus, the Master Weaver makes the most attractive cloth imaginable, one that drapes us in ultimate comfort, compassion and, yes, expertise—divine wisdom. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable (Christmas) gift.” (2 Cor. 9:15)
Marsha Bolton Rivers, MA ’04, is director of development and community relations at Hospice of Orleans, Inc., in Albion, N.Y.
This month we will be sharing a collection of short readings by Northeastern Seminary alumni as they reflect on and rejoice in the gifts of God's grace and the signs of Christ present during this Advent Season. Today's guest post was written by Matthew French.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”
Wait. Jesus is coming. Wait. But my heart aches with the waiting. Jesus, how long will we wait? How long?
How long? It’s an ancient ache. The rock band U2 has at times closed concerts with the song 40. This song is based on Psalm 40—the band leaves the stage singing and then the crowd lingers still singing, “How long, how long, to sing this song?”
We seem to be wired to wait. I don’t mean to say that we are any good at it, but we all wait. This waiting has a spiritual magnitude to it, which might just be a way of saying that everyone waits and the waiting reaches to the deepest places of who we are. People of faith or not, we wait. And in the waiting we long. And in our longing we find that we wish. We wish we didn’t experience loss or hurt people we care about.
We wish we didn’t live in a world where our actions contribute to others being the “least of these.” We wish with this deep longing that there weren’t such things as cancer, or violence, or war. But we wait, and we long, because these things have too tight a grip on this world for now. We ache in the waiting because, at times, these things seem to have a tighter grip on us than Jesus. How long? How long?
As Christians, at least our faith takes our wishing and transforms it into hope. We know the Master will return and with the embrace of his love will permanently wipe away all that should not be. The bright Morning Star comes, not just to illuminate the darkness, but to leave the darkness behind. And gone with the darkness will be our hoping, and our longing, and our waiting.
Advent reminds us that as Christ followers we wait and that our Jesus is returning. Yet even in this waiting, especially in this waiting, my heart aches. My heart aches for the future beauty that we see in chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation. For a light, being one who must wait in the darkness of this world, that I can’t even fathom. For the presence that we will dwell in and never ache again. Jesus, how long until you pull us from the mud and mire? How long until we find our mouths full of new songs? How long?
“Yes, I am coming soon … Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20
Matthew French, M.Div., ‘10, is the senior pastor at Bergen United Methodist Church in Bergen, N.Y.
This month we will be sharing a collection of short readings by Northeastern Seminary alumni as they reflect on and rejoice in the gifts of God's grace and the signs of Christ present during this Advent Season. Today's guest post was written by Joanne Green-Colon.
The Bible is full of powerful statements about God's intervention in our lives: God watches over us, God goes before us, and if God is for us who can be against us.
God watching over us talks about God's protection and care for his children. Just as earthly parents make sure their children are taken care of with their needs provided and out of harm’s way, God makes sure that our needs are met and our ways are safe.
God goes before us shows us the Creator guiding our steps and providing direction to our lives. We don't have to worry about having a purpose because God is our guide. We would go through difficulties and obstacles, yet we can rest assured that we would cross to the other side of the valley because the designer of the path is leading us.
God is for us talks about him being our defender, our secure place. The Powerful of Heaven stands in defense of our souls against the attacks of our enemy and we can stand assured that no weapon against us could destroy our soul because the Lord of Hosts is for us, on our side.
Nonetheless, there is one statement that I believe is even more powerful than these.
The prophet Isaiah spoke about Jesus in this way: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Immanuel. What a beautiful name! Now God would not only be watching over us, walking in front of us, and protecting us. Now God was coming to be with us, to be our companion—leaving a place in glory to be humbled—to be able to relate to you and me in our humanity.
We would not have to be alone any more. The God of the universe would walk by our side every day. God would be right there when we are excited, sad, hurt, and even angry. God would be the shoulder to cry upon, the chest to rest upon. God would be with us in a personal way as never before.
In fact, He is with us today! He is Immanuel.
On December 16, 2013 the Colon family bid farewell to Joanne Green-Colon, who experienced serious complications during the delivery of their second child on December 9. A most faithful follower of Jesus, she will always remain known as a remarkable, talented, energetic, and creative woman who touched many lives in the Rochester community and elsewhere for Jesus.
This reflection, written on November 22, 2013 and scheduled as part of the Northeastern Seminary alumni advent series, is published today at the request of her family.
Joanne Green-Colon, M.Div. ’05, was a pastor at Heart and Soul Community Church in Rochester, N.Y. and taught Church History and Children’s Ministry in the Certificate in Ministry Program at Northeastern Seminary.