An Entrepreneurial Tipping Point

Update: Here’s part 2 (the ‘secular’ part): “Lessons Learned as an Educational Consultant (Oct 2013)”

I’ve been wanting to write this post for months, but I haven’t felt I was ready. I’ve decided to write this in two parts, and am writing here first… because it is impossible for me to write about this without discussing my faith in God, and I don’t want to partially write about this in the constrained way I’d feel I needed to if I only posted to my primary professional blog. That’s one of the main reasons I setup “Eyes Right,” so I would have a space to share about my faith and not feel I needed to “self-censor” because people were coming to my site for educational technology tips or other non-religious reasons. I’m not sure why you’ve come to this post… but hopefully you’ll find something which is not only practically helpful, but also points you toward God and gives you encouragement in your own journey of faith.

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In February of 2009, I become a full-time digital learning consultant. It was a big leap of faith. In the ensuing 4 1/2 years, I’ve learned a great deal, but I still don’t feel like “I’ve arrived” or “I’ve figured this out.” That’s the main reason I’ve delayed writing this post… I still feel like I have SO many things to figure out, and perhaps (with more time) I’ll figure out more of them and THEN write this post. Yet, time marches on, and things continue to both change and evolve. There are many, many more lessons to still learn, but perhaps now is a good time to share a few that I’ve learned up to this point.

In the past few weeks, I’ve reached “an entrepreneurial tipping point” as a full-time digital learning consultant. I believe God is calling me to stop doing my consulting work full-time, and instead take a full-time teaching position and only consult a bit on the side. It has been my dream for years to be a full-time educational consultant, and this has been what I’ve done now for almost five years… but there are a lot of caveats to that history and it’s been FAR from the glamorous job it might appear to be to outside observers. The ONLY way our family has survived financially and otherwise the past 4.5 years is thanks to the grace of God: as manifested in the generosity as well as support of our parents, our church family, and my professional work for an ongoing educational nonprofit. This isn’t something which God revealed to me through a burning bush or another dramatic encounter… it’s actually something which has become apparent because of financial difficulties. Since I started as an educational consultant, I’ve frequently wondered what my “Now I’ve got to STOP doing this” point would be. It’s not something I’d defined. I never even created a formal “business plan” for the LLC I started, and I’m sure that would have been a good idea. We’ve lived ridiculously close to “the financial edge” of having absolutely no money… exhausted savings, almost no available credit. I’m embarrassed to admit this, and I question the degree to which I should be publicly transparent about it. I know there are many, many people who live “month to month” with “regular” jobs, not trying to make it as entrepreneurs, but I don’t take solace in that. It’s not the responsible way to live, and whether it’s something lots of people do or not it’s not right. Still, I’ve known that persistence and faith in the path forward have been important, and I’ve believed that God would eventually financially bless my efforts if I persisted in always striving to follow His will for my life, and following the path in life I believe He is calling me to travel.

So, to try and avoid a rambling post (which would be VERY easy to write on this topic) I’m going to organize my thoughts into several “lessons learned” which have a specifically Christian and religious focus. I’m next going to write a secular version of this which addresses things which aren’t particularly faith-based. I’m not doing this to hide any of these ideas, or to hide my faith… which I strongly feel is important to share with others. It’s because the people who read my primary educational blog aren’t coming there to read about my faith journey… and there are aspects of this which can only be shared in the context of faith and my walk with God. Here we go. Many of these things aren’t “lessons learned” or “advice” that is just applicable to someone who is pursuing or wants to pursue a career as an educational consultant. Lots of this can apply to anyone.

1. Seek a Spiritual Mentor

One of the best things I FINALLY did in the last year was find a spiritual mentor who I meet with on a monthly basis. Mine is Curt Gruel, who is the leader of a “Heartpaths” group here in the Oklahoma City area. They have a multi-year training program in which they learn how to become spiritual advisors to other Christians, helping them grow in their journey of faith and both recognize and understand the call of God’s Holy Spirit in their lives. My wife has been in this “Spiritual Directions” program though our church for the last seven years, and it’s been transformational for her. It has been for me too. It’s not quite accurate to call this a “program” of our church, because it’s not something that is very visible to others. I don’t know if it’s listed as an official ministry, and it’s not something you’ll find in our bulletin on Sundays. Still, it’s definitely something members of our church are intimately involved with, and it’s an ecumenical ministry involving multiple churches.

The reason spiritual mentorship is gigantic goes back to Biblical stories and models like Paul and Timothy. We’re all called to have mentors in our spiritual life, and to also serve “mentee’s” too. Meeting regularly with someone to explore where God is moving and acting in your life is a powerful experience. It helps focus not only your attention, but also sensitize your spirit to God’s Spirit. God is moving around us all the time, but so often we’re too “blinded by our busyness” to see Him and his work. These verses from John, as Jesus talked to Nicodemus about how God’s Spirit is like the wind, are a case in point. We can see and experience the effects of God’s Spirit every day, but we have to be attuned to Him to see Him. That process (which thankfully continues) has been HUGE for me to better recognize and understand God’s Holy Spirit in my own life.

2. Spend Daily Time in God’s Word

The last two years I’ve read through the entire Bible with the assistance of daily reading plans included as part of the YouVersion iPhone Bible app. (free) The first year I actually got behind and didn’t complete the last few books, but I was close. The second year I stayed on track better and finished the entire Bible. This year I haven’t done a daily reading plan, but I try to read the Bible most days. Reading God’s Word daily is essential. There are SO many competing sources of information angling for our attention each minute of every day. Planting God’s Word into my mind intentionally every day has been a HUGE part of my walk with Him, and is a giant part of the reason now I feel very confident about how he’s directing me professionally to change course.

3. Seek Balance in All Things

Especially for the past year, I’ve been working hard to strike a better balance in my life in multiple arenas, including spiritual development. I want to live my life in balance when it comes to my work, sleep, family time, prayer, Bible study, other kinds of reading, play, and exercise. This is really tough. I tend to be a person who works too much. Since most of my work is done on a computer, and I have access to laptops, I can work anywhere and at anytime. There is so much work to be done, it would be easy to be overwhelmed. I have not given some things in my life, like exercise, play, free reading, and (at times) sleep, the time and attention they both need and deserve. It’s vital to MAKE time, not find time, for spiritual growth and development. For me, this happens both through scheduled meetings with groups like my Friday morning men’s group as well as individual time to read the Bible, pray, and be quiet as I listen to God. I’m not still and quiet, as a listener, nearly enough… all of these things are hard and difficult for me. Yet I am convinced this is an important part of the call God has placed upon my life at this time, to not only take care of myself but also set a good example for my children and my wife. Balance is hard but thankfully I have multiple people in my life who are helping me stay accountable to these goals.

4. Have Humility to Ask and Accept Help

One of the absolutely worst, toughest, and HARDEST parts of trying to be an independent learning consultant over the past 4.5 years has been the times when we ran out of money and had to ask for help. Thankfully this hasn’t happened lots of times, but it has happened several times, and it’s excruciatingly difficult to ask family members for help. I absolutely didn’t want to do it any of the times we did, and when we did I never wanted to do it again. When this has happened, it has always been at times we were “waiting for checks” which were going to come in, but were late. Having to ask your family for financial help is a very humbling thing, and I don’t recommend it to anyone. I would say, however, that God can and does bless us through others including our family, and at times this can include financial help. So it’s important to have the humility as well as courage at times to ask for assistance, as well as ACCEPT assistance when it is offered. These experiences have taught both my wife and I that we want to maintain very open and transparent communication with all of our children as they grow older, so hopefully we can be in a position to help them when and if our financial assistance is needed. In this way our families have “paid it forward.” There is absolutely no way we could have made it without the support of our families, and our church family, over the past few years. Praise God for His blessings and his grace which he demonstrates and shares generously through those who are called according to His purposes.

5. Submit all major financial decisions to the Lord TOGETHER

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s vital to never make large financial decisions alone. It’s now our rule as a couple to always make large financial decisions together. Maybe this seems obvious to everyone else, but it wasn’t something I was using as a “personal operating procedure” early in our marriage. When you submit an idea, opportunity, or prospective purchase to the Lord together, there are important dynamics that kick in which can help avoid bad decisions. I’ve made bad decisions in the past, but my decisions have always been better (and better informed by God, I think) when I’ve discussed them with my wife, committed them to prayer, and then submitted them to God together.

6. Don’t Expect Things to Be Easy

I’ve been waiting for YEARS for things to financially “smooth out” and get easy for us, as I pursued what I believed to be God’s will for my life as an educational consultant. It never happened. Maybe it never will, but I actually think that God does not and will not call us to live in a constant state of financial uncertainly and stress. My advice for those who are considering full-time educational consulting work is to NEVER expect things to be easy. It certainly hasn’t been for me or for our family, but that doesn’t mean that we weren’t doing the things God had called us to do. I’ve never read in the Bible a passage where God said, “And when you choose to follow me, all your paths will be straight and I’ll always fill your bank account with more money than you need or can spend.” I’d love that to be true in many ways, but it’s simply not reality or God’s promise for our lives. I think there is a fine line to tread between being persistent and stubborn in our desire to follow our “dreams” and work toward the goals we want to achieve, and the need to be attuned to God’s Holy Spirit who can and may say at some point, “You need to go a different direction” or at least “Change tack by shifting your course over here.”

Those are a few of the lessons learned and ideas I’d like to share which tie directly to my journey of faith, regarding my career and professional work. Now I’m going to write a post over on my main blog, which will address the more “secular” lessons learned and bits of advice I can share.

If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear any feedback you have or ideas to share. May God bless you richly in your own journey of faith to know Him and to serve Him!

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The Tongue of Fire

These words from James, the half-brother of Jesus, remind me of a couple things today.

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:6 NIV)

First of all, it reminds me of bullying my wife talked about happening at school last week. It can be amazing, shocking, and sad (all at the same time) to witness how cruel kids can be to each other at times. Negative, attacking language can be like a poison. The words of children, even young ones, can be incredibly destructive.

The second thing it reminds me of is a conversation my wife I had last week, talking about the use of what might be termed, “stinkin’ thinkin’.” In many ways, we are both struggling with perceptions of failure. Some of this is financial, and some is also related to our family and professional work. We are not failures, and we are not failing, but there is a great temptation to not only view ourselves in this way but also talk about ourselves in this way. We are not and would not talk about each other this way, but in the past we have used the self talk of failure. This is incredibly destructive, and at least this time I was and am able to see it for the poison it is.

Perceptions of ourselves as failures do not come from the Spirit of God. They come from a spirit of evil, which seeks to destroy rather than build up. These words from James remind me how important words are, and how important it is that I take charge of my own tongue, even when I am using self-talk and language that only I can hear.

Perseverance

This was part of our devotion Bible passage this morning at our Men’s Council meeting at Mo-Ranch near Hunt, Texas.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 NIV)

Love, mercy and forgiveness are the gifts we have received and receive from God. As followers of Jesus we are called to share love, mercy and forgiveness with others. The comfort and encouragement which we receive from these gifts gives us the ability to persevere in times of difficulty.

These verses from our passage resonate with me because they remind me about how God works to shape us through hard times.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:8, 9 NIV)

It IS a blessing to learn to rely more on God and not rely on ourselves. I want to rely entirely on God and have complete faith on His provision for me and my family. It is a constant struggle to maintain that perspective, however. “The World” emphasizes what individuals can do, while Jesus encourages us to focus more on what God can do. I need regular reminders of this. Difficult life circumstances definitely can and do point me to the reality of God’s provision and His sufficiency.

The Heart is the Tree & Words are Your Fruit

A powerful message from Pastor Robert Morris on the value and power of words.

Here are some verses and key messages from this sermon.

From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:20, 21 NIV

and

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:31-37 NIV

Speak life into your family. The words we speak shape ourselves and shape our family members into the creations we and they become.

7 divine words for healing every relationship: “I was wrong, will you forgive me?”

Humble yourselves and Let There be Tears

These are verses that are probably not heard very often in sermons on Sunday. This is an exhortation that is both challenging and needed, however.

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. (James 4:7-10 NLT)

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Lessons on Suicide Prevention from Rich Van Pelt

(cross-posted from Moving at the Speed of Creativity)

This evening the four eldest members of our family attended a presentation about suicide prevention by Rich Van Pelt, a church youth leader from Colorado who has authored several books on helping teens in crisis. I’m not sure how many people were present in the sanctuary at Crossings Community Church in north Oklahoma City, but I’d guess over 1000.

Attendees listening to Rich Van Pelt speaking at Crossings Community Church in OKC

Quite a few members of our church‘s youth group attended, along with parents, elders, and Sunday School teachers. Our community has experienced a series of teen suicides in the past year, and the ideas Rich shared are both timely and needed.

Rich Van Pelt speaking at Crossings Community Church in OKC

I did not have my laptop at the presentation tonight, so I used my iPhone to live-tweet it. Unfortunately I didn’t see a tweet from Crossings Church about the hashtag they’re using (#Cultivating) for this spring speaker series until after the event. I created a Storify to chronologically archive the tweets I shared from the event. Many thanks to Rich Van Pelt for sharing this information and these strategies to pro-actively address teen suicide, and thanks to Crossings Church for hosting this event for our community. Since these issues are relevant to a wide audience and not strictly theological / faith focused, I’m posting this here in addition to my Christian blog, Eyes Right.

Learn more about Rich and his ministry career serving kids in crisis in this four minute video from June 2012. His books and other support resources are available from Zondervan.

Remember Hebrews 13:20

Hebrews 13:20-21

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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More Notes from Philip DeCoursy

These are my notes from Philip DeCoursy’s evening sermon at our church today. He is a special guest pastor for a series of messages. The George Whitfield Society here in Oklahoma City brought him in and our church is hosting his sermon series.

CS Lewis warned us about the two extremes regarding prophesy
– some ignore it
– some become fanatical about it and opt out of their responsibilities in life

Loving, living, and laboring

On loving:

But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Mac-e-dōni-a. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; (I Thessalonians 4:9, 10 NKJV)

The world and the culture is marked by lust
– the church should be marked by love

Lust is selfish, it consumes, it devours, it takes and leaves nothing in its place
Love is about serving others, thinks about what is best for others
– love enriches and adds

If there is no change in someone’s life when God enters their life something strange is going on

We had two choices on going to church in my house growing up, you can go willingly or unwillingly!

You don’t need to be an identical twin to be a brother, do you?

This weekend could be a springboard

Value your faith like a Presbyterian, share your faith like a Baptist, organize your faith like a Methodist, enjoy your faith like a Pentecostal

Where love is absent it doesn’t matter what is present, where love is present it doesn’t matter what is absent

Loving and living
– love is a verb, it is deliberate action

Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to a more “rooted and responsible life”
– live a quiet life that does not neglect responsibilities here and now
– those who do the most in this life are thinking the most about the next one

Work feverishly to be at rest

But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Mac-e-dōni-a. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
I Thessalonians 4:9-12 NKJV

“The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” movie with Denzel Washington and John Travolta
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1111422/

The real heroes are the ones who bring home the milk to their family

With fanatics you can’t get them to change their mind or the subject

You have to avoid the temptation of going around and trying to fix everyone
– here we are talking about busybodies and people who act as a pain in the neck
– revisit your hermitology, this world IS broken and out of shape
– come to terms with the fallen condition, you can’t fix everything and God hasn’t called you to do that
– this doesn’t mean let the world go to “hell in a hand basket”
– don’t be in everyone’s business as a nuisance, this is what Paul is saying

There is vanity all around us
– in a fallen world we have a tendency to see the faults of others with greater clarity than our own

Matthew 7 message
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5 NKJV)

Dwight Moody was the Billy Graham before Billy Graham

Aspire to live a quiet life

Work with your own hands

Paul says if a man doesn’t work he shouldn’t eat
– this not address those who don’t have the capacity for work
– work isn’t a 4 letter word in the bible
– certainly frustration has been added to work because of the fall
– work existed before the fall

God is presented as a craftsman or a laborer, a potter, a metalsmith

You and I are called to be good employers and good employees
– punctual and passionate in all things we do

Are you working for The Lord each day?

Forget about your wages, the raise comes later- we are all working for God! – Philip DeCoursy

Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. (Titus 2:9, 10 NKJV)

If we can’t win the acceptance of non-believers today, lets at least win their respect
– lots of postmodern thought and beliefs today

There should be no defrauding of the church’s money

Burdens are to be shared and shouldered

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. (Galatians 6:1-5 NKJV)

Paul Powell’s book “Looking Back”

When we know Jesus is coming back we need to get urgent about loving each other

Comfort one another with these words:

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. ”
I Thessalonians 4:13-18 NKJV
http://bible.us/114/1th.4.13.nkjv

The gospel causes Christians to approach death differently

Death is the black limousine which leads us to the gates of glory

Martin Luther left his dear 14 year old daughter, Magdalena

Christians die well in the hope of the gospel

Paul and the gospel writers were expecting Jesus to return in their lifetime

The grief, the relief, and the belief

John Piper: You can never question God, but you can ask Him questions

Get up in the morning and talk to yourself before your self talks to you

Paul challenges us to grieve within limits
– temper our grief with the knowledge that Jesus is coming again

It’s not goodbye in death, it’s only goodnight and you’ll see them in the morning

The belief aspect: We do have hope in the resurrection
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
I Thessalonians 4:13, 14 NKJV
http://bible.us/114/1th.4.13.nkjv

You can’t be a Christian and deny the bodily resurrection of Christ

Forget the Joel Olsteen’s of the world and the prosperity gospel preachers
– when you choose to follow Christ you will suffer and lose friends for Christ

John Stott: Paul had an antipathy to ignorance (theological imprecision)
– idea that “ignorance is bliss” is balderdash

Ignorance is a blight

I hope you are Bible moths, eating up scripture each day (from John Wesley)

Sound doctrine has a way of setting us at ease in the struggles of life

Rapture, resurrection and reunion

1 Corinthians 15
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by CÄ“phas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
I Corinthians 15:1-11 NKJV
http://bible.us/114/1co.15.1.nkjv

Acts 1:11
“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” ”
Acts 1:10, 11 NKJV
http://bible.us/114/act.1.10.nkjv

Are we each living with our bags packed, ready to go when God calls?

The second death is the separation of the soul from God forever, a terrible thing…

The body which God will raise will be fully filled with His Holy Spirit

“Laugh Again” by Charles Swindoll
http://www.amazon.com/Laugh-Again-ebook/dp/B00317G7CO/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

Death can hide but it cannot divide

Luke 7:15

So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. (Luke 7:15 NKJV)

Voting to Leave PCUSA and Join ECO

Last night our congregation voted 815 to 55, with 1 abstention, to leave the PCUSA denomination and join ECO. This is a panoramic photo of our sanctuary while we were waiting for the vote results. This is the fullest I’ve ever seen our church!

Waiting for the vote results

I’ve posted a 21 minute edited video from last night’s vote to YouTube. The announcement of the result starts at 12:17, which you can view directly using this link.

Unfortunately the local media coverage (both in last Friday’s Daily Oklahoman / on NewsOK and this morning’s local NPR radio report) have focused almost exclusively on the issue of gay ordination. As I explained in my public comment on the NewsOK article (and others at our church have continually done) this is one element, but not the main issue which led to this historic congregational vote and decision to leave our denomination for ECO.

To learn more about the reasons our church decided to follow this path, I highly recommend Mateen Elass‘ March 30th editorial printed in the Edmond Sun newspaper, “First Presbyterian Church seeks new path.” Mateen read most of that article Sunday prior to his sermon for our congregation.

NewsOK / The Daily Oklahoman posted an article today about the results, “Edmond congregation votes to dissolve denominational relationship.”

Commenting Publicly About Our Church’s Congregational Vote

This afternoon I left the following comment on the January 25th NewsOK article, “First Presbyterian Church of Edmond set to take historic vote.” This comment went on the NewsOK article comment thread and also cross-posted to my Facebook page. These are contentious but important issues. Please keep our congregation in your prayers tomorrow as we take this historic vote, and the deliberations of our Presbytery in the week to come on whether or not they will “graciously dismiss” us.

As highlighted in this NEWSOK article, our congregational vote tomorrow at FPCE has to do with the authority of scripture, the central tenets of our Christian faith, and church discipline. Members of our church have been working for over a decade to reform our denomination from within, and after long study (and work) determined that is not going to be possible. Our vote tomorrow is the culmination of YEARS of work and study.

One of the core beliefs of our congregation which we are standing firm on, for example, is that faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the unique path to salvation. We are not universalists or Unitarians. This is one of several core faith issues about which there is dissension in the PCUSA denomination. The Evangelical Order of Presbyterians (ECO) denomination is a new Presbyterian denomination founded in 2012 which will offer many opportunities for our congregation to focus more on evangelism, mission and discipleship rather than denominational differences.

As to the issue of “being afraid of gays and lesbians” or “hating” the LGBT community, I can assure you we are not a congregation of fear or hate. I deeply regret and mourn the hateful behavior and words of some people using the title of “Christian” who have made the term “evangelical” regrettably associated with “anti-gay” in many contexts. As Tim Keller has pointed out, “Being a heterosexual doesn’t get you into heaven.” Being gay certainly does NOT condemn someone to hell either. As individuals and churches, these are issues we need to understand better as well as communicate more clearly… and with love.

First Presbyterian Church of Edmond has a wonderful Wednesday night class this semester, in fact, discussing Andrew Marin’s excellent book, “Love Is An Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.” This class is providing a challenging and needed opportunity for us to grapple with the complex and difficult questions which surround the LGBT community and Christian churches. Anyone is welcome to attend, as well as chime in our online discussions about the book (and DVD series by Andrew) on http://faithdiscussions.org.

ECO - A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians

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