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Ch-ch-ch-changes!

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So I feel I’ve received some direction…finally…which is refreshing. The last year and a half of my life has been sort of a reaction or response to what had happened previously (being ‘let go’ from being a youth pastor), and so it has been somewhat of a struggle, and I have often felt an uneasiness as I pondered my “calling,” and couldn’t help but feel that somehow I was sort of off the path, or at least not moving forward. A few ministry opportunities have presented themselves in the past year or so, but I ultimately felt that these opportunities were not right for me, and so I passed them up.

Recently, however, I feel I have had an epiphany of sorts. I have pretty much decided that I will be moving back to Phoenix, re-enrolling at Phoenix Seminary, and finishing my education there. On top of that, for the first time in the past year-and-a-half, I feel “released” (for lack of a better term) to pursue ministry vocationally. I honestly don’t know whether the recent reluctance to pursue ministry was from the Holy Spirit, or from my own insecurity. Despite feeling somewhat “stuck,” this has been a very positive season for me. I have experienced a measure of financial stability (at least moreso than when I was a youth pastor), I have had some soul-searching time, and I realize now how much I had neglected my own spiritual health while tending to the spiritual needs of others. This has been a wonderful time of rejuvination! My church is great, and the teaching from the pastor is phenomenal! I am truly being transformed by the Word, and it is an awesome experience. I have established a wonderful network of close Christian friends – something I lacked during the whole time I was in Phoenix.

So my friends, I covet your prayers, and I will keep you updated!

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Written by jeffrossman

August 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Life, Ministry

Belonging

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So last night I “officially” became a member of my church, Living Hope Family Church. They don’t exactly have a firmly established protocol for membership (which doesn’t bother me), but I felt it was important for me to make my committment to the church known. So earlier this week I emailed the pastor, informed him that I wanted to officially become a member, and last night I was publicly recognized before the congregation – and you know what, it was awesome!

Later, I got to thinking (as I usually do after a significant event) about this whole business of “joining” a church. There was a time that I thought that church membership was a stupid and pointless practice, and that it was unnecessary to have to go through some process in order to truly be committed to a church body. Though it is true that you can commit yourself to a church without “joining,” it begs the question – if you are totally committed, why not join? What I realized is that public recognition of membership in a church is actually vital! First of all, it gives great encouragement to the body, showing that church is growing, and it reaffirms why they initially joined. Second, the new member, by being acknowledged publicly, becomes known to the whole body by name and face, and is usually thus greeted by name from then on (which makes the new member feel even more welcomed and at home). Third, the new member gains a significant sense of belonging which, until being publicly recognized, is experienced only superficially – he/she moves from being an “attender” to a “member.” Last, it is for the new member an expression of not only affinity for, but committment to the local church.

I have come to the conclusion that every church ought to give great attention, thought and prayer to how they incorporate and recognize new members. I can say honestly that even though effectively nothing has changed, I feel more a part of Living Hope today than I did before.

Written by jeffrossman

May 21, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Life

Profound…

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Last week I facilitated a SMART Recovery group for work. SMART is sort of like 12 step, except it’s based on cognitive, not spiritual, principles. Some people of faith might be offended by that, but I still think that the things SMART teaches are great…

Anyway – so there I am leading the group. I’m new, so it took a while for people to open up, but after about 20 minutes or so, things really got rolling, and there was some good discussion. Then, this one older guy with an amazing Z-Z Top style white beard says, “Addiction isn’t about what you do, it’s about how you think.” THAT was amazingly profound to me.

Basically, this guy was saying that for “addicts,” it really doesn’t matter what the drug of choice is, the reality is that the disease is in your brain, that the way to conquer the addiction is not by getting the harmful substances out of your body, but rather by getting the harmful thought processes out of your brain.

Then I thought of sin. Every sin starts with a thought. That’s why Jesus said things like, “If you look at a woman with lust, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart.” He wasn’t trying to heap extra guilt on us, He was trying to make us understand that it’s our THOUGHTS, far more than our actions, that really need to be rehabilitated! In another place he talked about how our words and actions proceed from within, from our heart.

We’re all of us addicted to sin – we’re compulsive in our sin – even when we would rather not sin, we sin anyway – even when we know the consequences will far outweigh the momentary benefit/pleasure the sin will afford – we’re addicted. However, the problem is not in our actions so much as it is in our thoughts. In the name of Jesus, let’s trust God, let’s put on “the mind of Christ,” let’s “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Let us seek for transformation FIRST in the realm of our thought-life, and then we’ll see transformation in our actions.

Written by jeffrossman

April 7, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Posted in Life, Theology

Confessions of a reluctant Pentecostal…

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I’ve been feeling a bit dissatisfied with the church I’ve been attending. I feel sort of bad for being dissatisfied, but there it is. I decided to begin visiting other churches. I totally don’t want to be a “church shopper,” but it is also important for me to find a church where I feel I connect with the Sunday service.

So, I visited a new church on Sunday. Faith Christian Church. There’s a few La Frontera peeps that attend there, and that was what really drew me. I had a hunch that this was a more Pentecostal church, but I wanted to visit and see for myself. So I did. It was. But it wasn’t a Wierd-a-costal church. It was pretty tame, actually, in comparison to many churches I’ve attended. There were a lot of things I really liked about the church. But on with the actual point of this post…

I am a reluctant Pentecostal. What that means for me is that from a theological perspective, I am pretty much squarely in the Pentecostal camp. But from a practical perspective, I am less Pentecostal. Put another way, I generally believe what other Pentecostals believe, but I generally don’t like what Pentecostalism looks like. Allow me to be categorical:

  1. Pentecostals can tend to think they’re better than non-Pentecostals: I believe that the Bible teaches a “second experience” of receiving the Holy Spirit (which Pentecostals call the Baptism into the Holy Spirit). I believe that this experience exists primarily to empower the believer for service in the Kingdom, and to deepen their experience of God. HOWEVER, I do not feel that those who have had this experience are somehow more spiritual than others, or have attained to some higher plane of godliness. I have known many Christians who, not claimining this particular experience, were far more godly and holy and committed to Christ and His Church than those who do claim the experience.
  2. Pentecostals sometimes lack restraint: I am all for freedom in worship. In fact, I feel most churches ought to be more free than they are! Those who gather to worship God shouldn’t feel out of place if they lift their hands, or kneel, or exhibit any other Biblical expression of worship. HOWEVER, many Pentecostals tend to take that freedom to an extreme, and they do bizarre things, or things that draw undue attention to themselves. They tend to take their freedom, and interpret it to mean “anything goes.” I feel worship ought to be free, but utterly reverent, and utterly within the bounds of Biblically defined expression.
  3. Pentecostals tend to be “experienced-based”: I feel it is important for Christians to have experiences in which they encounter God in meaningful ways. Our walk can become very lifeless and dry without those experiences. Usually an experienceless Christian life, is one that emphasizes theological truths. It is more rational, and intellectual.  However, the opposite of a “theology-based” life is equally as dangerous. “Spiritual” experiences, not backed by solid theological truth are, at best, suspect. I have been in a service where people were “passing the Holy Spirit around,” by touching each other. Sort of like “Holy Ghost tag.” This was seen as very spiritual, but to me it was the most ridiculous circus I had ever seen. Sadly, this “Holy Ghost tag” was only one of many ridiculous “spiritual” expressions going on in that service. It was a Pentecostal free-for-all, and not one thing that was happening in this service had any foundation in Scripture. I’m sure for those experiencing it, it was wonderful and profound, but was it really God??
  4. Pentecostals are all about the “blessing”: This is a tough one for me, but it has to be said. Pentecostals tend to be into the whole “Word of Faith”/”Health and Wealth” gospel thing. I’m not going to detail this theology, but suffice it to say that it basically teaches that God wants to “bless” you, and by “bless” they mean that God wants to give you lots of money and to spare you from experiencing sickness and disease. They contort scriptures and take them out of context in an attempt to show that God’s ultimate goal in your life is to “remove the curse,” which includes poverty, disease/sickness, broken relationships, etc. Practically it means that anything negative is “a curse,” and thus is to be rejected and prayed against. By way of example, a church I attended for awhile here in Tucson changed the words of a popular song that begins, “I am not skilled to understand,” to say, “Yes, I am skilled to understand.” Why? Because the former seemed to indicate weakness, it was negative, thus to confess it was sin. So they changed it. Stupid.
  5. Pentecostals are all about the “gifts”: This is probably better suited as a sub-category of the “experience-based” paragraph, but whatever. Since our understanding of the Baptism into the Holy Spirit is that it is given for the empowerment of the believer, we tend to emphasize the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. Those gifts are clearly supernatural (i.e. healing, prophecy, miracles, tongues, discerning of spirits, etc.), and thus are most easily understood to be the “power” we are to receive when baptized into the Spirit (Acts 1:8). Once again, I believe that every spiritually alive church ought to see these gifts in operation in their services or home meetings or whatever, but most don’t. HOWEVER, to emphasize the use of the gifts to the neglect of an emphasis on the fruit of the Spirit is very grave. One begins to feel that the Holy Spirit’s primary purpose in our lives is to empower us to do miraculous things, when in fact the scripture tells us that He is far more interested in bringing about the character and holiness of Christ in us. Just look at the chapter that follows the enumeration of those gifts in 1 Cor. 12. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1Cor. 13:1-3)

Other than the “Health and Wealth” crap, I pretty much stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Pentecostals in their theology, but try to keep a little distance from them when it comes to the way I express my Pentecostal beliefs. I’ll visit this church again. However, though it bothers me to be this way, I am a bit wary as I go, and a little more sensitive to some of those things I have mentioned. I believe that God will lead me to the right church. And I know that whatever church He leads me to will be imperfect, and since I am very imperfect as well, I guess it will be a good match.

Written by jeffrossman

March 17, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Life, Theology

Back in the saddle…

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…well, not quite.

Monday I interview for a part-time Director of Middle School and Young Adults Ministry position at Catalina UMC. I really haven’t done any ministry since I was let go from my position in April of last year (holy cow – that’s almost a year ago now). I’m not sure what kept me from pursuing ministry. Initially I was really excited to do volunteer ministry, but it never really happened. The opportunities never quite presented themselves.  Honestly, I didn’t really pursue them either. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Maybe I needed a hiatus. Maybe I was being lazy.

What’s really important is that I’m excited about ministry again, and this position sounds really cool to me. First of all, it’s part time, which means I can still keep my current job, and give my weekends and evenings to ministry (I’ve been pretty bored lately anyway). Second, though it is a staff position, it won’t carry the title “pastor.” Those crazy Methodists are pretty strict about who gets ordained. In some ways, this is sad, because it sort of feels like a step down. On the other hand, I think I like it better. At Hope Chapel, I feel I was thrown into the deep end kind of quick (the whole, “Hey, you’re the new Associate Pastor!” after a year of being the part-time youth pastor). Then, after being thrown into the deep end, I was sort of just thrown away (or so it felt). It made me question what exactly was meant by the term “pastor” at Hope Chapel. Didn’t feel like it holds a lot of weight. I digress…

So I feel that the absence of the “pastor” title is actually a bit refreshing on some level. Lastly, I attended one of their services last Sunday, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the more liturgical parts of the service. Normally I’m not crazy about liturgy because it feels fake, insincere. But they somehow managed to use the liturgy to aid in worship, rather than doing the liturgy for its own sake. They were sincere in their liturgizing. I really enjoyed it. We’ll see what happens. Pray for me!

Written by jeffrossman

February 20, 2009 at 3:20 am

Posted in Life, Ministry

What’s God up to?

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So, for those one or two of you who follow my blog, you know that a few days ago I posted a blog about how I am thinking about moving to India. When I wrote that blog, I was serious, but in a kind of fantasy-world sort of way. Like, when you have a crush on someone, but you don’t know if the feeling is mutual, and you kind of daydream about it for awhile before you actually make a move – that’s kind of where I was with India. I was serious, but not too serious.

It’s all come crashing down to reality now – in a good way! I received an email from the Meager’s today – they are the founders/leaders of The Jesus Way ministry in India (this is the orphanage to which I led a youth team back in ’06). In this email, they graciously invited me to come to India and be a part of the team there. I’m honestly just in shock about it! I haven’t made a decision yet (it’s been only 24 hours!), but it seems difficult to ignore when such a wide door of ministry just opens up in front of you (1Cor. 16:9).

Honestly, my experience in ministry up to this point is that I have had to search diligently and push through and advocate for myself in order to fill ministry roles. Hope Chapel was great, but I had to find an ad for the position on a website, apply, submit a resume, do an interview, etc., and then it didn’t end so well. Right now I’m feeling quite frustrated at my current church (though I love it), because I have all but thrown myself at them, offering to serve where needed. I have made known that I served as a youth pastor for 3 years, that I am a student of the Bible, that I am in Seminary – but no one has approached me for anything except to make a few calls to invite people to home group, and to help move furniture (all of which I am happy to do, by the way, and which I joyfully did!). However, it again feels as if I have to struggle so hard to serve God in what I know He has called me to…I’ve had more than one discussion with God about this throughout the years. Many of those, “So, are you REALLY calling me to ministry??”

But then this email…I didn’t solicit anything. I wasn’t submitting resumes. I wasn’t looking around for openings, and yet this opportunity falls into my lap! It feels like how everyone said it would be (but hasn’t been up to this point). Everyone always talked about how God would prepare a place for me, how “God has a ministry for you, brother! God will make a way,” etc. But it feels like I’ve floundered and struggled for years without any clear direction. I’ve fashioned all sorts of explanations as to why it’s been this way, some of them end with my own failings and shortcomings, some of them end with the devil’s handiwork, others still end with the simple explanation of circumstances…But now. How can I ignore this? It’s a little suspicious that I would begin to seriously consider becoming a missionary in India, and within 3 days receive an offer, a “Macedonian call” if you will (there’s some good Bible trivia for you – look it up).

Jesus said, “Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” So what about when you don’t even knock?! So I’m praying, I really want to hear from God on this one. But admittedly, I feel like I would have to hear a clear, “No,” from God in order NOT to go. It all just seems to perfect…

Written by jeffrossman

October 27, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Life

I’m moving to Kathmandu.

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Well, maybe not Kathmandu, specifically, but I’m seriously thinking about moving to that area of the world – somewhere in India.

I’m not sure what did it. A combination of many things have contributed to my current mental state. Let me take you on my journey.

April: I get fired from my job as Youth Pastor. That sucked. There was no warning. No ability to prepare, not ability to think through the next step, etc.

April-August: Unemployed. I figure that I want to take a break from ministry and get a job in the secular world. A combination of frustration from getting fired, and a desire to focus on my relationship with God, make sure that I am walking close with Him, before I try to help others get close to God. I have a lot of difficulty finding work. The bills keep coming, though, and I’m just focused on getting an income again.

August: I’m hired at LaFrontera. Decent job. Decent pay. I feel like I can stabilize, financially, finally.

August – present: Work’s okay, but ultimately unfulfilling. On some level, there is a sense that you are making a positive impact on people’s lives, but it’s a weak feeling. Most of the time you’re doing paperwork. Frequent frustrations, high stress. I begin to realize that, though a job (any job) and an income is necessary to survive, that I want to do more than survive. I have a calling. God has a purpose for my life, and of what use am I, if I am not serving Him.

Yesterday: For some unknown reason, I start surfing the internet for jobs in India teaching English, then all of a sudden I am on websites for Missions Organizations. It hits me. I’ve been thinking about doing missions work in India for years now. I’ve been there twice for short term trips and have totally fallen in love with India. I’ve already asked for the Hindi version of Rosetta Stone for my birthday (which is in two weeks). What better time than now?

Basically, I think that I have moved, mentally, from “survival” mode (I need money), to “calling” mode (I need God).

Please pray for me. I’m still kind of working it all out, and it won’t be an immediate thing. But I feel like this is all sort of clicking right now…

Written by jeffrossman

October 23, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Life

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