BY STEVE DUNN
Grandpa and his newest granddaughter, Emmaline
It’s 10:00 pm on December 28th as I begin this post. My wife and I are en route back to Pennsylvania following a delightful Christmas Week with three of our kids and their families in the Midwest. I am wide awake in the Comfort Inn in Somerset PA and got the urge to blog – urge or inspiration, never quite sure which word is correct. My thoughts have turned not to 2016, but the months that I have passed through in 2015. So here are some of my thoughts on what God was doing in me and through me in the year that is about to be history.
Dianne and I celebrated 43 years of marriage. No small accomplishment in a world where relationships are so transient. Dianne and I have been sharing a journey of ministry, child-raising, and serving that has been a challenge at times because of what the Lord has called us to do. But it has been an incredible blessing as I have experienced over and over the joy of loving and being loved by one of the most beautiful people God has created.
We continued serving as an Intentional Interim Specialist/Pastor, moving in January from an assignment that involved a church of nearly 700 to one that served 100. The Newport First Church of God in Perry County, Pennsylvania proved to be one of most pleasant pastorates–healthy people who loved each other, loved God, and loved us. We were able to help them find a pastor in nine months and my assignment ended two months later. I am now awaiting the next assignment having developed a new love–helping churches navigate the often difficult, uncertain and even grieving time when they lose their pastor. Churches often rush to fill the void and end up “marrying on the rebounds” which unfortunately ends as well as marriages on the rebound between a man and a woman.
I am teacher by gifting and passion. For the last several years I have served as an adjunct professor for Winebrenner Theological Seminary. This summer I was invited to the multiple-hat, daunting and yet highly satisfying responsibility of being hired as the Academic and Institutional Liaison for the Scotland PA location. It is a new venture with incredible potential to impact the Kingdom in our region. And on top of it I have been able to continue teaching, helping shape men and women to be resilient, healthy, faithful and fruitful pastors and ministry leaders. This took me into a new realm of ministry that like Intentional Interim work has renewed my passion to serve Jesus.
In January, I realized a life-long dream–to be published. My first book The Bridgebuilder Principle was released. It was a clear stating of what I have devoted much of my life to–helping churches effectively reach their unchurched neighbors. Helping them be healthy, outward focused and on mission with Jesus as they build bridges of truth and grace to the Bridge – Jesus Christ. Not only was it gratifying to know people were reading and using this fruit of my labor, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to autograph their copies. (Hey, there’s a little egotism in all of us.)
All of this comes with a price. A friend, Mark Hosler and I were invited to join a committee to develop a program of training for interventionists who help a church deal with the dismissal of their pastor for moral or legal reasons. (Isn’t that a sign of our times?) In the early going, though, we weren’t sure why we were working on a project that was staffed with some powerful spiritual and mental health professionals. When we asked why, the young chairwoman said (reflecting that this all would have to pass through ecclesiastical hoops) “because you are two old guys with clout.” The clout part was okay but the “old guy” provoked some troubling thoughts.
There’s a lot more and I may write more; but for now my initial reflection is that I simply chose to be obedient to God as I walked through my 64th year of life and He blessed me immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined.
P.S. – My time at Newport allowed me for the first time since I was in high school that I got to walk in a parade (the 175th Anniversary Festival Parade.) It was a hoot!