Tag Archives: St. Stephen’s University

School Postponed

It is with a sad heart that I write as I am not going to be able to attend this Fall’s module at SSU. I have been hoping beyond hope that I would be able to do so, but the current state of things is such that I’m not going to be able to make it (note this is not just a money decision as the funds were available)……it has been a rough year, one that I was not expecting…

Perhaps circumstances will change that I will be able to go next Fall…only God knows.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to read and chase the Wild Goose into the wilderness of life.

I Need Your Help To Go To Bible School

josh preachingTwelve years ago my wife and I spent the summer working in a poor barrio on the edge of the capital of Honduras, Central America. We were down there as part of a missionary training program designed to help young adults discern whether or not the Lord was calling them forward as long-term missionaries. One afternoon while in our rooms praying and asking Jesus for future discernment, the Lord pressed something upon my heart that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “You can’t give what you don’t have.”

A simple phrase…only seven words long (hmm..seven…perfection…) yet full of meaning. You see as hinted upon above, the words were given to me during a time of prayer when both my wife and I were asking the Lord what we were to do with the rest of our lives. In that context, those seven words rocked my world as they carried with them the implication that I needed to learn the Bible so that I could have something to give away to the people who were hungry for the Word of God.

This may sound basic to some of you, as missionaries have typically spent years studying the Bible before going overseas. Yet in my view at that time, “theology” was a cuss word and seminaries were places where people went to lose their passion for Jesus. My passion and desire was to work among the poor, helping them start new micro-enterprises and learn skills that would help raise them out of poverty. Going to Bible school or studying theology was the farthest thing from my mind as I thought I would simply just read the Bible and go from there. Those seven words pressed upon my heart that day changed all of that. From that time on I have had a burning desire to study the Scriptures and the theology of the global church.

Fast forward twelve crazy years. I have since then traveled more widely on behalf of Jesus, had a child, helped start a new church, become a pastor, worked a desk job for a decade, and a ton of other stuff. Yet throughout it all the desire to go to Bible school and complete a Masters degree continued to stay rooted in my mind. It stayed even after I completed the Vineyard Leadership Institute in 2007 (a two-year leadership and Bible training program)…it prompted me to try for an international development degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, a program I had to lay aside in 2010 due to both the requirements of the program (you have to complete half the classes on-site in California) and the high cost of tuition.

St. Stephens UniversityLast year this desire to go to school once again forced its way into the forefront of my mind. Not wanting to trust myself, I discussed the matter with some trusted mentors and asked for their opinion on trying to go back to school while pastoring, working and raising a family. They all encouraged me to go for it, so I applied to St. Stephen’s University (SSU) in New Brunswick, Canada, and was accepted into their Master of Ministry program (they even took my Fuller credits in place of the normal thesis or ministry project!!).

The great thing about SSU’s Master of Ministry program is that it is designed specifically for long-distance bio-vocational pastors and ministry leaders like me. The program consists of four modules in which the student reads the textbooks and completes various written assignments before attending a two week intense study period onsite at the school. This modular system allows for folks like me to go to school without having to leave the local area.

Furthermore, the program focuses on training up spiritual leaders with a strong emphasis on Ignatian Spiritual Formation and applying the concepts studied in one’s daily life. This emphasis really resonates with my heart as I strongly feel that unpracticed theology is wrong and useless. If we are going to study the Scriptures, then we MUST apply them to our lives and teach others to do the same. SSU’s Master of Ministry program does this – and it does it well according to the alumni I have interviewed, including Phil Strout, the current Vineyard USA National Director.

I say all of this (and I do apologize for the length of this letter) as an intro to the real intent. Namely, I am at a crossroads in my journey to “get” in order to give. Namely, while I have faithfully been reading and doing my homework this year, I do not have the necessary funds to attend the in-class section of the program this Fall (Sept 30-Oct 11)…. Seeing how God is the one who will not let this desire leave me, I figured He would have to fund this program. And since God usually works through His people, I am here asking you all to consider sponsoring me in this endeavor.

Below is a breakdown of the costs for the first module:

$2,887 Tuition
$144 Lodging for two weeks
$144 Meals for two weeks
$120 Canada Study Permit
$173 Bus transport (airport to school)
$650 Airplane Ticket
Total: $4,118

Sadly the dates for the module are coming up quickly so if the Lord presses upon you to sponsor me, please let me know soon as I have to make a $500 deposit on Aug 30th (the full amount is due upon arrival on Sept 30th)… If you want to make a donation, please leave a comment below and I’ll send you my PayPal and/or mailing address – I don’t want to post that info online for the world to see. One of my friends did mention that I could consider crowdfunding on a website like GoFundMe, for example. Apparently, lots of students raise money to continue their education on that site, so my friend said that could be a good idea. For now, I’ll try and do it the way I’ve proposed through PayPal. However, if that doesn’t work, my friend showed me other ways of fundraising too.

Note that donations will NOT be tax-exempt as this is a personal fundraiser…however, please, please know that I will not spend any funds on non-school related items – as past conduct shows, I treat all donations very, very seriously. If for some reason the full amount is not raised in time, I will give each donor the choice of a refund or allowing me to keep the funds until next year when I plan on trying again. If more than enough funds come in, all extra money will be applied to the next module in the program (there are four of them, all of which cost approximately the same).

Thank you all for listening to my journey and for all your support over the years. May the King of Kings guide you and rain down His blessings upon you.

“Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Life Together bookBorn in 1906, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian who opposed the rise of Hitler and his Nazi government when the majority of church leaders voted to support the new regime. At age 27 Bonhoeffer fled Germany and became the pastor of two German speaking churches in London, England. Two years later in 1935 he returned to Nazi controlled Germany to help established an underground, illegal seminary for pastors. Bonhoeffer also got caught up in the shifting political winds of the country and ongoing war, becoming a spy for the Allied forces against Hitler and the Nazi. In the spring of 1943, eight years after returning to Germany, Bonhoeffer was arrested and placed in prison where he was died at 39-years of age on April 9, 1945.

His book “Life Together” was originally published in 1938 and was rooted in the experience of living with his students and running the underground seminary. The book focuses on five key elements of the life together following Jesus: being in community with others, daily worship and devotions with others, personal spiritually, walking our calling with God, and confessing sins and living in forgiveness. Each one of these elements takes up an entire chapter wherein Bonhoeffer unpacks them in a matter that reflects someone who has lived the words on the page and not merely thought about them. In this way, the pages of “Life Together”, while not long, are incredible valuable to the greater Christian world, calling the followers of Jesus to live life together rather than as independent rafts adrift at sea.

The first element of life together that Bonhoeffer tackles is quite simply community; that is, walking out life together as a people of Jesus. All too often people, especially in the United States of America or any other country with a long heritage of Christianity, take for granted the “privilege of living among other Christians” (pg 17). Bonhoeffer rightly points out that Jesus himself lived among his enemies and called his followers to do the same. Christians do not belong to the “seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes” (pg 17) so that the message of Gospel of the Kingdom of God may shine forth and souls may be deviled from the bonds of evil.

From there, Bonhoeffer then moves on to describe what it means to start off the day within a community. Each day, Bonhoeffer suggests, should start with a common devotion shared by all members of the community during which the word of Scripture is read, the hymns of the Church are sung and the prayer of the fellowship prayed (pg 44). Each item in this list is of the upmost importance as they feed off each other and prepare the community for living life together amid their enemies.

The third element of life together that Bonhoeffer expounds upon is personal spiritually. As valuable as the community can be for the individual, it can also be damaging as the individual ceases to find time to be alone with God. To counteract this, Bonhoeffer encourages each member of the community to set aside a portion of their day to sit in silence with Jesus in meditate on the Scriptures, prayer and intercession (pg 81). Afterwards, the individual is to come back into the greater community, bringing with them the “blessing of his aloneness” while, at the same time, receiving “anew the blessing of the fellowship” (pg 89).

Continue reading “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

SSU Master of Ministry Reading List

Happy, happy, joy, joy!! I just received the reading list for the “Ancient Insights for Today” class in my first module at St. Stephen’s University!! It is quite the reading list – which is why I’m starting now even though I don’t actually ‘go’ to the class until October 1st.   😀

Speaking of the reading list, if anyone has a book on this list (except Bonhoeffer’s book, I have that one) that they are willing to give away, loan or sell cheaply – please let me know as I am now in the market. 😛

  1. Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, ed. and trans. by Theodore Tappert
  2. John Calvin, The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, trans. Henry J. Van Andel
  3. Blaise Pascal, Pensees, Section III and Section IV
  4. George Herbert, George Herbert: The Country Parson, The Temple
  5. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers
  6. Thérèse de Lisieux, The Story of a Soul: A New Translation, trans. Robert J. Edmonson
  7. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
  8. C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (the sermon itself, not the book by the same name)
  9. Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
  10. Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness
  11. Nelson Mandela: final section of Long Walk to Freedom
  12. Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy
  13. Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God
  14. Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1& 2
  15. Roger Olson, The Story of Christian Theology
  16. Gerald L. Sittser, Water from a Deep Well

I Have Been Accepted To St. Stephen’s University!!!

Ever since the summer of 2001, when God told me that I needed ‘get’ before I can ‘give’, I have been pursuing higher theological training. Sadly enough I almost gave up on this dream a few years later, only to be rescued by my wife and God’s poking and prodding which lead to starting Vineyard Leadership Institute (VLI) in 2005. Upon graduating from VLI in 2007, I immediately applied to and was accepted at Fuller Theological Seminary for a Masters of Intercultural Studies. Over the next three years, I took three distant learning classes, the last being in the Spring of 2010. Distance learning through a christian university online has been such a wonderful experience, and one that you may want to consider if their is no-where nearby to enrol with.

When I had first applied to Fuller, I had originally planned to continue taking distant classes through Fuller for about eight years before moving to California to complete the program (you have to do half the courses on their campus). Things, however, radically changed in February 2011 when I became the senior pastor of the PRV church – i.e. moving was no longer an option. That means that house hunting in California came to a halt. I’d even started looking into some beautiful homes on real estate platforms like https://reali.com/san-francisco-bay-real-estate/, but I had to give up on these dream houses for my new job.

The dream then sat dominate for a few years while I tried to figure out what God wanted to do with my life…then St. Stephen’s University in New Brunswick, Canada, popped up on my radar. Their Master of Ministry program is a module system designed for working pastors – as in, the bulk of the studying is done at home with the students coming together at the end of each module for a two week in-classes teaching period.

As far as the degree itself, the Master of Ministry degree is uniquely designed to prepare spiritual leaders instead of researchers. What I mean is that instead of focusing purely on theory, St. Stephen’s University focus on Spiritual Formation and real questions and life issues facing church leaders today. Early this year I asked Phil Strout, the new Vineyard USA Director, what he thought of the program as he completed it in 2004. He said that the most important thing for a young pastor to learn was spiritual development and that I should feed it, feed it, and feed it. In other words, yes, the Master of Ministry degree at SSU is worthwhile.

To that end, I applied to St. Stephen’s University – not really know if I would be accepted, how I was going to pay for it, or if I would have the time to work on the classes… I just told God that if this dream was His, He was going to have to do something about it or, if I was off course, please have my application denied.

Today I received an email informing me I have been accepted into the program and that all my Fuller classes have been counted towards the degree!! (a HUGE blessing in and off itself!!!)

It is craziness I know (considering all that is happening in my life)…but It looks like God is leading me back to school at some level (most likely I will do one module per year for four years…). What a ride this is!