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Church Planting Astrophysicist

Tall with a thin sweater making him too hot for room 101 at Western Seminary in October of 1999.  In a flash, and mid-sentence, he has removed his sweater and quickly tamed his hair with his fingers.  The flash was long enough to leave us all hanging, waiting for the rest of the story – it’s about him sitting at a table with our Eastern Orthodox brothers in Christ.  It’s about places where we see eye to eye, and places where we are looking for common ground.  This is one of the moments I count as the most important in my theological training, and one of the only things that could prepare me for church planting.

 In fact, even though I sat at the feet of some of the most brilliant minds and some of the most charismatic teachers available to our denomination, it is safe to say that the most important, most influential professor in my preparation for planting a church was an astrophysicist theologian – one I never heard preach.  Dr. Christopher Kaiser showed me the three things I needed more than any others in order to engage my culture for Christ.

 First and foremost, he taught me how to respect and appreciate the differences I may have with people in my community.  Allowing people to be themselves, think what they think, and believe what they believe is crucial in church planting.  Nothing will close more doors than a posture of already having, and forcing upon another an answer.  I listened closely to a professor who was intentionally dialoging with people.  He listened and he gave them respect as people – as people our God loves.

 Secondly he laid out the struggles the early church found in solidifying a Christian theology – an understanding of the Trinity, of the work of Christ, of the person of the Holy Spirit.  These struggles have not evaporated.  In fact we face many of the same theological and practical challenges faced by the early church.  His teaching laid a foundation for understanding where we’ve been and how to navigate the present.

 Thirdly he invited our class to his home.  I went and was met in the most gracious manner I can recall.  Hospitality it the most important and useful tool I have as a church planter.  I learned about it as I was welcomed into his home and made to feel just that – at home.  I knew I was welcome, and even though the music played or the decors and art on the walls may have been different from my own home – I felt I belonged and was welcomed into the family while we shared a meal.

 Our church plant is called Embody Christ Fellowship and one of our “tag lines” is “You don’t have to believe to belong.”  As I reflect upon the retirement of Dr. Kaiser I see his fingerprints all over my ministry.  We, like him, desire to embody Christ, to have fellowship with others in the search for truth, and we make room for others – wherever they are on the path – to join us in this journey.

 I celebrate the immense impact of Dr. Kaiser upon me personally.  I celebrate what Christ has done through His servant in my life, and within the lives of those God touches through my ministry…impacted in no small part by the finest professor of church planting and astrophysics of our generation.

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