Mark D. Roberts

Mark D. Roberts

The Wider Vision of Laity Lodge

Part 16 of series: Why Move? Stewardship, Wineskins, and the Enigmatic Will of God
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To read this series, Why Move? Stewardship, Wineskins, and the Enigmatic Will of God, from the beginning, click here.

As I have explained previously, Laity Lodge is, at its core, a unique retreat center in the Hill Country of Texas. For forty-six years, this ministry has sponsored life-changing retreats, featuring some of the most gifted teachers, musicians, and artists in the world. If this was all Laity Lodge were to do, it would be a worthy and blessed work.
But, in fact, Laity Lodge has a wider vision. This is reflected even one of the fundamental purposes of retreats. They are not only to be catalysts for a personal experience of God, but also to empower people to go into the world as ministers of Christ, helping to renew their workplaces, families, churches, and, indeed, society as a whole. Retreats are seen, not as an end in and of themselves, but as a means to further the ultimate goal of multi-layered renewal.
high-calling-daily-workYet Laity Lodge does more than put on retreats. As I mentioned in my last post, it is one ministry of the Howard E. Butt Foundation, which includes Free Camps, Laity Lodge Youth Camp, Laity Lodge Family Camp, and The High Calling of our Daily Work. I will be working directly with The High Calling, which is a website chock full of resources to help people live out their faith in daily living, especially at work. This website regularly features radio spots by Howard Butt, Jr., as well as Bible studies, articles, and interviews by a variety of authors on a variety of subject related to the workaday world. Writers for The High Calling include: Tod Bolsinger, Scott Cairns, Harold Fickett, Emilie Griffin,Dale Hanson Bourke, Virginia Stem Owens, Earl Palmer, Olga Samples Davis, Luci Shaw, and Tim Stafford.
I have found the interviews on The High Calling to be especially insightful. They usually focus on some business leader who is also a person of faith. The questions get at things we all wonder about, and the answers are often fresh as well as wise. For example, be sure to check out Nancy Lovell’s recent interview of Fred Smith, one of the most influential evangelical leaders in recent time. This turned out to be the last interview Fred Smith ever gave before his death at 95.
I will be doing a fair bit of writing for The High Calling, as well as helping to shape the content and future of this ministry. As Scholar-in-Residence for Laity Lodge, I will also be represent this ministry through writing and speaking in various settings, including this website. Since joining the staff of Laity Lodge, I’ve written four articles for publication in various magazines, spoken at a preaching conference, and preached at a pastoral installation service. Though I don’t expect to keep up this pace, I’m grateful for the chance to spread the vision of Laity Lodge through communicating “out there” in the church and the world. And I’m thankful for the support I have received from Laity Lodge as I seek to be a good steward of the gifts God has given me.
I began this series by talking about stewardship and my desire to discover how best to use all that God has given me for the sake of His kingdom. My quest to be a faithful steward led me to an unexpected openness to leaving my pastoral ministry at Irvine Presbyterian Church and joining the team of Laity Lodge. After a focused five-month process of discernment, which was actually the conclusion of an eighteen-month search for divine guidance, I finally became convinced that Laity Lodge provided the answer to my stewardship question.
I’m not done with stewardship, however. Though I expect to be a member of the Laity Lodge team for many years to come, I will continue to work with my colleagues and supervisor on how best to use my gifts to further the ministry of Laity Lodge. In a ministry with so many exciting things going on, this won’t be easy!
Moreover, I believe that one of the reasons God has called me to Laity Lodge is to help this wonderful constellation of ministries deal with its own stewardship challenge. God has richly blessed Laity Lodge with the abundant resources I outlined in my last post. Along with this abundance comes a wide vision for personal, relational, institutional, and social transformation. Thus the leaders of Laity Lodge will face the continual challenge of how best to use all that God has given. It’s stewardship all over again, now writ large.
I hope and pray that as I get to know this ministry thoroughly, as I build deep relationships with my Laity Lodge partners, and as I reflect with them on what Scripture teaches, I might be able, in some small way, to help Laity Lodge determine what good stewardship of their resources will mean. Along the way, I expect that we’ll encounter the tricky question of what wineskins are appropriate for the new wine of the gospel. And, I’m sure that there will be times when God’s will for Laity Lodge will be enigmatic. Yet if we seek the Lord faithfully, if we surrender our agendas selflessly, if we pray together honestly, if we submit to one another humbly, and if wait upon the Lord patiently, then God will guide us. Sometimes His guidance will be surprisingly expansive and visionary. More often, God will give us the next steps in which we are to walk, trusting that His way is always best, even if we don’t know yet what it is.
As I wrap up this series on my move from Irvine Presbyterian Church to Laity Lodge, I hope I’ve been able to offer some encouragement to others who are seeking God’s enigmatic will for their lives. I also hope I’ve been able to introduce many of my readers to the wonderful collection of ministries associated with Laity Lodge. If I’ve intrigued you, please check out the Laity Lodge website. We’d love to have you at one of our retreats! And be sure to visit The High Calling as well.
Finally, if you are a person of faith, I’d appreciate your prayers, both for me and my family as we begin this new adventure together, and for Laity Lodge, that we might indeed be faithful stewards of all God has entrusted to us for the work of His kingdom. To God be the glory!

  • K.C.

    Lots of prayers for you and Linda. It was really neat to see you at Lloyd’s PWP seminar.

  • RJS

    I have been reading this series with interest – as I have most of your series. The emphasis on empowering lay Christians in ministry is great. But the stress, as usual, is on the business world, small business to corporate America. Given your background have you ever considered the prospect of empowering lay ministry of Christians within the secular academic environment?

  • Mark Roberts

    RJS: Yes, indeed. This is an absolutely crucial realm. I see it as one more place, indeed, a strategic one, for Christians to live out their faith. Your reminder about the tendency to focus too narrowly (on business) is well taken. Thanks.

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