Mark D. Roberts

Part 2 of series: Why Move? Stewardship, Wineskins, and the Enigmatic Will of God
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I could begin telling the story behind our move to Texas at several different places. I could recount conversations in my grandparents’ breakfast room when I was a boy. Or I could relate things I learned from my pastor when I was a teenager. Or I could describe the first time my wife and I experienced Laity Lodge. I expect that, in time, I’ll touch upon all of these. But for the sake of brevity, I’ll begin with something that happened at Irvine Presbyterian Church in 2005. (Photo: Veritas in worship)
In January of 2005, we began our Veritas worship service. Veritas, which means “truth” in Latin, was our “post-contemporary” service, intended primarily for folks under 30. The musical portions of the service were led by an outstanding rock band. I was the primary preacher. We incorporated a variety of elements, including live painting, stirring visuals, and classic items of Christian worship, like the Lord’s Prayer.
I loved Veritas (and still do, for that matter). What I most loved about that service was the eager participation of people who had, for the most part, never before connected with our church’s more traditional forms of worship. My heart rejoiced to see in Veritas the kind of people we had been missing for so long: teenagers, young singles, newlyweds, visitors with piercings and tattoos, and even a few of us older folk who connected with God through the musical genre of this service. For fourteen and a half years I had worked and prayed to see Irvine Presbyterian Church include in worship those we had for so long ignored. In January 2005, it finally happened. I was thrilled.
Along with that thrill came a sense of completion, combined with an unexpected feeling of unsettledness. So much of what I had labored for as pastor, so much of what I had been called to the church specifically to do, had finally been accomplished. When I came to Irvine Pres in 1991, I faced several daunting challenges, including:

• Bring health to the ailing youth ministry.
• Help the church embrace its local evangelistic responsibility.
• Rebuild and expand the staff to support a growing ministry.
• Help the members of the church see themselves as ministers and live out their identity in both the church and the world.
• Get the stalled building program back on track; lead the church to build a new sanctuary and an administration building.
• Develop new ministries for fellowship and Bible study, so that people might grow as disciples.
• Expand the church’s missions program, with more hands-on involvement by members.
• Broaden the appeal of our worship so as to draw in new people, but without losing the core of the church who preferred a more traditional genre.

By God’s grace, we were able to meet several of these challenges during my first few years as pastor. In 1996, for example, our youth ministry was healthy, and we completed construction of a new sanctuary and youth center. But other goals on my list took more time. It wasn’t until 2005 that we finished building the administration building. And, as I noted above, in the same year we began our Veritas worship service. For the first time in my tenure as pastor of Irvine Pres, I felt as if I had completed much of what I was called there to do. This was a wonderful feeling, but, as I mentioned above, the finishing of my obvious to-do list also left me wondering what was next. Perhaps it was time to generate a new list for the next fifteen years of my ministry at the Irvine church.
In one sense, a pastor’s work is never done. There are always more sermons to be preached, more lessons to be taught, more people to be discipled, more needs to be offered to the Lord in prayer, more lost sheep to be carried home. As I began to wonder what I was supposed to do next in service to the Lord, it wasn’t as if I had nothing more to do as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church. In fact, I was working hard, often feeling overwhelmed by the volume of work required in a growing church. For example, Veritas added about a half-day of work to my week, given extra meetings and preparation, but I had not delegated any of my other responsibilities to someone else.
Yet, even as I had more than enough to do as pastor, I began to wonder where I should be focusing my energies in the future. Assuming, as I did, that I’d be the pastor of Irvine Pres for many more years, I began ruminating about how I could best use the gifts and opportunities God had given me. In theological language, I started to wrestle with the issue of stewardship. No, not fund raising for the church, but stewardship or wise management of the gifts God had given me for ministry.
Next time I’ll say more about the issue of stewardship and how it played out in my life.

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