Tonight we had our Men In Action awards dinner celebration. Men in Action is a 12-week leadership class our pastor designed to challenge guys to be men living out their faith, being knowledgeable in the Bible, and loving their families well. He designed the class in response to being frustrated at seeing a lack of qualified leaders in our church.
I went through class # 4 several years ago, and I decided to retake it for class #14. Over 300 guys have now graduated from this class, and other churches are now using this material. Pastor Jim encourages alumni to retake the class either as a personal refresher or just to encourage the new guys taking it. It is a fair amount of work. You memorize the books of the Bible and the fruit of the spirit. You have a personal initiative (e.g. controlling your temper) that you find an accountability partner for. You create a Life Focus Statement to identify ministry goals and opportunities, and map out a timeline of God's faithfulness in your life. One of the capstone projects is an elder case study. You’re given a scenario of something an elder board would have to deal with in a church. You have two weeks to research the underlying legal, moral, biblical issues and then you meet in groups of three as a mock elder board to deliberate and decide on these issues.
I struggled with motivation in this class. Work and seminary hit harder than expected this season, so I almost dropped out, but didn’t only because of peer pressure. I didn’t want to have to deal with all the guys in there saying for years to come, “Oh, we wish you would have finished it with us.” And I was hoping for it to hit me more with relevance now going through it as a married man, but it didn’t. Finally, it was just an overcommitted season. Heidi and I had done so well saying “no” to regular commitments for our first eight months of marriage, and then we took on too much because we saw how well we had been doing.
Another one of the bigger projects is called "My Life Focus," and involves analyzing your past experiences, spiritual gifts, skills, education, passions, dreams, etc. to create goals and a draft plan for ministry to your family, church and community. The valuable part of that, I see now in hindsight, is that doing that again showed me how God has grown me since I did this about seven years ago. Many things on my dreams list last time have come to pass, and my passions and dreams are more refined.
But I finished. I was on the fence above going to the awards dinner tonight, but Heidi wanted to, to celebrate this and to see what I had been learning. I was able to finish up at work so that we were only a little late. They handed out completion certificates to the 30-something guys who finished out of the 47-ish that started the class. Then they had some special recognitions based on class votes for most powerful testimony, and most likely to be an elder, etc. My jaw dropped when I was one of the two guys nominated most likely to be a future elder. I was very humbled and grateful that I appear to be getting a few of those biblical qualifications right in how I interact with others.
It was a tough class to get through, but tonight made it worth it.