What’s the Puzzle?

Dr. Russell West (our faculty mentor) presses us for the puzzle behind our dissertation topics!

In our last post related to our dissertation work, we reported that we mailed our first drafts to our mentor, Dr. Russell West, at Asbury Theological Seminary.

We both had very productive conversations with Russell last Friday by phone as he travelled to Louisville, KY. We both received good direction, and interestingly, both of our ministry projects are going to take a major detour. We’re both very excited about these changes (we’ll say more about our projects in another post).

Russell is very good at challenging you and getting you to the heart of the matter. Russell asks, “What’s the puzzle?” For Russell, this is the most important question. IOW, Russell asks, “What is not right in the world?” It’s a question Russell pressed us with when we met him last summer and again last January when we had lunch with him. We still needed some more pressing last week. (Incidentally, this question can be helpful in other contexts, too; for example, I started my sermon prep last week by asking this question.)

From our conversation, Russell sensed that the word “impact” was a keyword for me. In fact, our conversation reminded me of what I wrote a couple of months ago after the Chris Tomlin concert. I had written that I felt the experience at the concert was influencing my thinking on my dissertation work but I wasn’t sure how, at the time.

I did expand a little in my journal that same evening …

During the brief intermission, I wrote this: “I don’t just want to do ‘pastor things’ – I want to change the world! I want to be a transformational agent!”

As I wrote that I recalled the passion (and perhaps some naïveté) I had when I first responded to God. It was a charge-hell-with-a-water-pistol kind of passion, a passion to change the world! As I’ve grown and matured, I’ve also become a little less naïve (I hope) but I don’t want to lose my passion to be a change agent for God in the world.

I also thought about how this passion to be a change agent might impact the work on my dissertation (that I’m now beginning). We really don’t need another model for doing or leading church. I think what we need is more of God. Sure, we need good systems, but God has to be at the center of any system we develop, I’m curious how this will develop!

Thankfully, Russell helped me begin to make some connections.

Well, we’ll write more later about our specific ministry projects, but for now we need to reframe/redraft what we’ve already written. The good news is that we are on schedule (if not ahead of schedule). We should be one or two drafts away from our official proposal hearing sometime this summer.

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