Tag Archives: geri scazzero

Church Planting and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Church planting has humbled me in many ways, and I think one lesson/appreciation I’ve gleaned the past few weeks has been the great value of “a long obedience in the same direction”, a phrase coined by Eugene Petersen.

I’ve been particularly grateful for many of the stellar leaders who have gone before me, doing the long, plodding work of ministry and faithfulness so that younger people like me can stand on their shoulders – often times unbeknownst to them.

I was fortunate to spend a week with Leith and Charlene Anderson along with other pastors/leaders.

I recently took a week-long class at Fuller with Leith Anderson, now retired pastor of Wooddale Church and the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, and I was absolutely floored by all of his insights into Scripture, leadership, and life in general.  His wife Charleen joined us for the class as well, and it was such a privilege to have her there to answer questions and interact with us.

Leith shared that he had just retired as pastor at Wooddale after 35 years of being the senior leader there.  Wow.  That means that Leith was the senior pastor at Wooddale longer than I’ve been alive (sorry Leith, I never shared that out loud, but I was startled by this fact).

As we’re in the first few weeks of Hope’s launch team gatherings, I’ve wondered to myself what a long obedience in the same direction would look like.

Most of all, I’m wondering what it would look like to remain faithful in living and leading well, both in my family and in a church.  The Andersons are such great examples of this, and I’m humbled and grateful for their long service.

I’m also grateful for the many mentors I’ve had throughout my life, all of whom have modeled faithfulness in different ways.

I feel indebted to many church leaders with long-standing histories in NYC too, people who have paved the way for many years.  People like personal mentors Pete & Geri Scazzero, Craig & Ellen Fee, Mark & Pam Taft, Jim Owens as well as people I’ve learned from afar like AR Bernard, Michael Durso, Robert Johannson, Floyd Flake, Tim Keller, Mac Pier, Joseph Mattera, and Marcos Rivera (just to name a few).  These church leaders have faithfully served this city for decades (along with their spouses), and now younger leaders like me get to run with the baton that they pass on to a new generation of leaders.

I think one of the biggest leadership lessons I’ve learned in recent weeks is the difference between the question, “can we do this?” and “should we do this?”

My youthful impatience often propels me into the first question.  Wise friends and mentors at Hope (as well as mentors past) have directed me toward the second question.

With that said, I return to the serenity prayer once again, a daily discipline for me as I hope to live with a “long obedience in the same direction.”

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

God, grant me a humble, attentive heart, one that will commit to a long obedience in the same direction.


Theological Influences

I recently met with one of our small groups for a theological pow-wow, and I must say, I came away from the discussion quite energized.  It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to revisit some of the thoughts I’ve come to (and am still wrestling with) regarding the Bible, theology, and its relevance to the world, and I realize that I really like discussing these subjects!

Anyhow, I also recommended a few books to the group, and as I was explaining each book, I realized there are a few authors/thinkers who have really shaped my approach to theology, Scripture, and the world.  I thought I’d share who these people are.  I’m usually quick to read any books/articles/talks that come from these people.

Interestingly enough, I think the rest of our pastoral staff at NLF would have varying lists, a thought which brings me much consolation.  Also, although they’re not included on this list, our pastoral staff (Pete, Geri, Rich, Jackie, Linda, Mike, Myrna, and Peter) challenge and shape my thinking in more ways than most!

This list is in no particular order

1.  Christina Park – Yes, my wife.  I’ve learned much about love, forgiveness, grace from her.  She’s taught me to appreciate sci-fi, fantasy, and romantic comedies as well, even pointing out profound theological underpinnings in each.

2.  Pete & Geri Scazzero – Pete’s my boss, so he’s on the list.  But seriously, his books have certainly had the greatest influence on me in my formative years as a pastor.  Geri has also lent wonderful insights regarding marriage, God, sexuality, and all that good stuff.

3.  Howard Thurman – Thurman has quickly become one of my favorite theologians, especially because he’s so rooted in Scripture while having unique perspectives on justice, contemplation, and all sorts of things I’m passionate about.  His Meditations of the Heart are some of the best stuff I’ve read recently, as well as his book Jesus and the Disinherited.

4.  NT Wright – He’s a Biblical scholar whose perspectives on Israel, God’s Kingdom, the Victory of Jesus, and Paul’s message, have blown me away.  I know there’s been some theological jousting between him and John Piper regarding justification, but I don’t think I’m sophisticated enough to see how they’re both not talking about the same thing from different angles.  See, you couldn’t even understand that last sentence.

5.  Richard Rohr – Every single work I’ve read from Rohr has been deeply profound and insightful.  His thoughts on manhood, Scripture, spirituality, and grace are really astounding and cause me to ponder everything.

6.  Ron Vogt – Ron’s a counselor whom I regularly see (now with Tina).  He hasn’t published a book as far as I know, but his thoughts on the emotional world and its intersection with theology and humanity has been radically transformative for me.

7.  Jay Feld – Doctor Jay is NLF’s Counselor in Residence, and I’ve learned a lot about grace, community, and wisdom from him.  He’s speaking at our singles’ retreat, and I think you should be there if you’re a single person between the ages of 21-84.

8.  Tim Keller (and his son, Mike) – It’s hard to find things to disagree with Keller about because he’s so thoughtful and winsome in the way he approaches faith, culture, and the gospel.  Aside from being an amazing thinker/preacher, he also models a kind disposition toward those with differing opinions, which is quite frankly, really cool.

9.  Paul Lim – One of my theology profs at Gordon-Conwell.  What I really appreciate about him is the way he handles heady and heavy material with an edge toward orthopraxis.  In other words, he is about the head, heart, and hands, and he had done a lot of thinking about God and real people in the real world.  His stuff on theodicy and the problem of evil is pretty mind-numbing, as are his thoughts on the trinity.

10.  Laura Speiller – Laura was the first one to introduce me to the contemplative tradition.  I’ll never forget one of the ways she described contemplative prayer – an embrace without words.  Deep.

11.  Sean McDonough – Another one of my seminary profs, he modeled and taught me to approach the Biblical text systemically as well as meditatively.  I can’t wait until he publishes some more stuff.  He’s also a great sparring partner when it comes to sports predictions.

12.  Leighton Ford – Leighton is like the godfather behind so many movements happening in today’s Christian world.  I nearly cry every time he speaks or writes about something.  He introduced me to a number of authors including Parker Palmer, who should also be on this list.  I love Leighton’s breadth of learning – I think it’s shown me how to look for truth everywhere.

13.  Dan Shin – A close friend and former staff member at NLF, we had (and continue to have) extremely stimulating theological debates.  I love it.  I must say, for a guy who doesn’t read much (Dan), he has a great philosophical and theological understanding of varying subjects.

This list is getting out of control, so here are some other folks whose perspectives I appreciate and seek out somewhat regularly.

Martin Luther King, Jr, CS Lewis, Parker Palmer, Henri NouwenRichard Lovelace, Gordon Fee, Doug Stuart, William Webb, Anne Lamott, Andy Crouch, Rob Bell.

I notice I’ve listed relatively contemporary people.  I think the classical authors (Calvin, St. Teresa, Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, St. John of the Cross, Aquinas, etc) are too prolific for me to want to start following.  Yes, that’s a lazy perspective, but one that I freely confess to.

Who are your theological influences?  What are your thoughts about this list?

PS  If you’re looking for recommended reading from our church, you can click here.