Why I Have Decided Not to Take a Study Leave This Summer

Originally I had hoped this summer to prepare for publication a book entitled The Pleasures of God, based on a sermon series from several years ago. I had signed a contract with Multnomah Press to deliver the manuscript by August 31 this year. I called the press and they have graciously let me postpone that due date into the summer of 1990.

The other book that I am editing with Wayne Grudem of Trinity Seminary, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Crossway Books), I will try to go ahead and complete by using Tuesdays as a study and writing day and by squeezing it in among other duties.

So I will be preaching at Bethlehem through the middle of July. At that point I will go to Manila for the Lausanne II congress on world missions for two weeks and then take four weeks of vacation in August and be back in the pulpit probably on August 27.

The reason for this change of plans is simply that I cannot bring myself to be away from the church without having in place a clear plan for our future staffing. Right now we are in an interim situation for children’s ministries and Laurel will be leaving in about a month. We also sent away Steve Roy and have had to pick up his responsibilities in ways that weaken other ministries. For example, evangelism, outreach, adult education and personal discipling have virtually no pastoral leadership. Moreover, David Livingston is carrying the load of the crucial 20:20 Ministry which he was not called to do.

It is imperative that we put in place a clear plan for what staff we need and that we find appropriate persons this year (and the sooner the better). One of my main responsibilities as senior pastor is staff development, oversight and care. Therefore my absence in this crucial time of development would have inevitably caused unwise delays. My original plan was based on things falling into place more quickly than they have.

Please pray for the staff and other leaders of the church that the Lord would give us great wisdom and guidance. Ephesians 4:11 says that when Christ took his place as the ascended Lord “he gave (to the churches) some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.” I take great encouragement from this. Christ is the ultimate overseer of the pastoral staff. He is the one who gives pastors and teachers to the church. What we need to do is get in step with his wisdom. That’s why I want you to pray.

Pray big prayers! Ask God to give us a vision for the 1990’s. William Carey is our inspiration here: “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.” Pray that we would know which great things to attempt. Then pray that we would see what kind of pastoral leadership would best equip and inspire and mobilize the saints to bring about that vision. We do not want to staff for maintenance or for comfort. We want staff who mobilize the people for war (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

I am excited about this new turn of affairs in our plans. As the decade closes I want to dream God’s dream (Acts 2:17) with you for Bethlehem as we move toward AD 2000, “the year of our Lord”! I anticipate that God will do a great thing this year as we kneel expectantly before him.

Seeking your earnest prayer,

Pastor John

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