Day 4 - My Views on Religion
I have taken a Blog Challenge to blog daily for 30 days mostly about myself so that you and others can get to know me a bit better. Tell a friend about www.jacobfields.org this month, or like and interact with me on my Facebook ministry page at Facebook.com/Jacobwfields
Since I am in ministry I have quite a bit to say on this topic and I would be glad to answer any specific questions. For efficiency sake I am going to simply insert the paperwork that I prepared for my recent District Committee On Ministry interview for Certification as a Candidate in the United Methodist Church.
Statement of Call
Growing up our family held membership at FUMC Mansfield but rarely attended. In 6th grade the invitation came to register for Confirmation. I am still not sure why, but that year when my mom asked if I wanted to go through Confirmation, as my brother had the previous year, I responded “That seems like a big deal and I don’t think I’m ready yet.” It was not until 8th grade that I finally accepted the invitation.
I felt I was better able to understand confirmation lessons by being more mature during that process, in a way in which it really began to change and shape my life. I look back now and can see how significant of a change there was emotionally, behaviorally, and socially once God became a regular part of my life. It was this confirmation process and an invitation from my youth pastor to be a part of the youth program that really launched my participation in the life of the Church. Through heavy involvement in the youth program and direct mentoring from a new youth director, I accepted a call to youth ministry my sophomore year of high school and took on significant leadership roles as a student.
I first felt the hint of being called to more than just youth ministry in the spring of my junior year in high school. Several times, I had invited a friend of mine from the track team to come to church with me, after about a month of attending he felt compelled to be baptized. My pastor invited me forward to lay my hands on my friend during the baptism. In that moment, I felt an overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit that was telling me that this was what I was supposed to do with my life. In my youth, I dismissed this feeling as simply a confirmation of my call to youth ministry. It wasn’t until I really began learning about the process of ordination while at McMurry University that I came to understand this as a call to Sacrament. However, God again guided me to the similar thought I had before confirmation, ordination is a big deal, and I wasn’t ready.
While Lay ministry has provided me with the opportunity to learn more about church work while spreading the gospel, I have learned that there is no way to satisfy that burning in my heart other than thru ordination. To delay following my call any longer would be to deny the desires that God has placed in my heart. I deeply desire to be sent as the set apart leader who brings God’s grace to new people by baptism and the grace of restoration to congregations that desire to feel the movement of the Holy Spirit as they once have. I desire to expand the kingdom of God by way of creating new opportunities for people to learn that nothing can separate us from the love of God. I desire to lead people in worship of and service to God, so that communities would be changed by a church that is relevant in people’s lives. This call on my heart has finally guided me to say that now is the right time to enter the process. I am experiencing the joy of married life, and now fatherhood, yet my heart was not settled. Where at times there has been fear or reluctance, there is now peace that only came from saying yes to God and what He has planned for my life by beginning the ordination process. I now feel confident to say that I know this is a big deal, I am ready.
When it comes down to a single definitive thing I must point to, it would be Matthew 28:19. My personal faith would not be complete if I never fulfill what God called me for years ago during my friend’s baptism. I must go and baptize, I must go and share in communion, to not would be to deny God’s call for my life making it difficult to consider myself a disciple of Christ.
Do they know God as pardoning God? Have they the love of God abiding in them? Do they desire nothing but God? Are they holy in all manner of conversations?
I feel confident responding “yes” to all of the above questions. I believe that God is merciful and have felt evidence of God’s grace and love in my life.
Have they gifts, as well as evidence of God’s Grace, for the work? Have they a clear, sound understanding; a right judgment in things of God; a just conception of salvation by faith? Do they speak justly, readily, clearly?
I feel strongly that the evidence for this set of questions rests in the answers to the questions about fruit. In my time working with Preschool children in chapel at Preston Hollow UMC I found very quickly that if I did not understand the biblical concepts of right judgment and salvation by faith, it would be impossible to communicate such profound lessons to 3-4 year olds. I have been uplifted by many for my ability to communicate the gospel in a way that people at many different life stages can understand.
Have they fruit? Have any been truly convinced of sin and converted to God and are believers edified by their service?
Not only can I answer yes there is fruit of my ministry, but I can provide names, stories, and examples. By the Grace of God, my life has served witness to have the following people make the decision to become baptized Christians: Joseph Farley, Catherine Newton, Sophia Newton; and at least the following make a clear renewal of commitment to their faith: Chris Newton, Drew Johnson Scott, Michael Conley, Alexandria Zupa, Rebecca Delflache and hopefully many more. I strive to live a life that uplifts and encourages people, and have been a source of spiritual growth even to people that I admire for their faith.
I can, point to a trip to the Taize Monastery in southern France as my most formative faith experience. Through the unique style of worship and experience of silence, reflection, and prayer, I came to understand something different about my beliefs. This is what I wrote in my journaling of the experience, “what was once confused as understanding is now understood to be confusion.” What this statement represented was a shift from a black and white, cut and dry, legalistic perspective of what it means to be a Christian, to a place of constantly seeking and evaluating between what is right and wrong in my beliefs and actions. I am convinced of my beliefs in both heart and mind yet this openness has allowed me to come to grow deeper in belief and appreciation for God. I believe that we must always continue to learn. I believe that we will never perfectly understand God, mankind, or how we are to interact with each other but that perfection should be what we strive for in life. What this has to do with my call to ministry is both spiritual and practical. In our churches when someone is seeking to grow deeper spiritually there is only so much growth through silence, self reflection or even, searching the scriptures, at some point we must get more involved. We must become more involved in our communities to be able to see how God is moving and interacting with others. We must become more involved with the un-churched to grow in our understanding of all Jesus’ references to gentiles. We must become more involved in church for our eyes to be opened to the reality of life behind the plastic smiles of those we think “have it figured out,” and to see the Pharisee in our own selves. Personally I have journeyed from saying I am a Christian, to being a church attendee, then from attendee to volunteer, from volunteer to leader, and finally from leader to staff. My faith has grown each step of the way as I have found joy in becoming more connected, have been uplifted and encouraged by others to continue in my path. That is the spiritual role of the church in my personal call. The practical role of the church in my call to ordained ministry is what District Superintendant Dr. Clara Reed once told me is the “outward call.” She explained to me that there is more to being called to ministry than how I personally feel about my call. Others in our life will see God’s plans for us sometimes before we do, and they confirm and encourage verbally what God is speaking in our hearts. In my time of working in the church, many people have provided this confirmation and encouragement of pursuing ordination as an elder.
I believe that God created and is creating still. I believe that God is truth and that God is love. God pursues a relationship with each and every person and will do anything to be with us even to the point of sending us Jesus, God made flesh, not only as the atoning and redeeming sacrifice for our sin but as the only perfect example of how to live. As a Christian my relationship with God is not merit based but a free gift of grace outside of my doing and through that relationship we are invited to be a part of what God is doing in the world. I believe God loves murderers, rapists, brutal dictators, atheists, religious people, apathetic people, and even me, yet God’s love does not look the same to all people. The world will be a better place if more people were able to recognize God’s love in their life and then respond to it through the way they live. The Gospel is social and it should affect the way we interact with each other and with God. I trust in the Holy Bible as the word of God, even though there is a lot about it that I do not understand. I believe that God brings life and that the abundant and eternal life that Jesus came to give should be lived even now. I believe that God packages a unique set of gifts in all people for them to share with the world. I believe that my gifts are best used in ministry. My entire life God has been crafting me for this work, making me a leader with creative vision and the ability to spread this vision to others. The gift of persuasion then allows me to bring others into the process of change. God has also blessed me with the gift of preaching in a way that challenges and inspires people. I am able to identify with a wide variety of people through my life experiences which allow me to be a witness of God’s love to many people in many different circumstances. These gifts inspire me to continue following my call to ordained ministry as an elder so that I would have the opportunity and authority to bring people into the church and into closer relationship with God.
I have an amazing support system comprised of both friends and family starting first with my wife. All of our immediate family lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex and are willing to help us in whatever way they can to help me through the ordination process and seminary. I have friends that I can trust outside of my place of work and friends that I can trust at the church that help me to accomplish the things I do.
What is the meaning and significance of the Sacraments?
The Sacraments are outward symbols of God’s love toward us and a means to God’s grace which is working within us. The Sacraments implemented by Jesus and by doing them we affirm our love for God and awareness of God’s love for us. Sacraments unify the members of the body of Christ in community with each other sharing in responsibility of strengthening each other as Disciples of Christ.
What is your understanding of itinerant ministry?
Simply put, it means going where the bishop decides to appoint an elder for the sake of ordering the church and administering the Sacrament. Methodists began itinerate ministry for the practical reason of not having enough ordained elders for every church to have one so a pastor would be assigned a circuit of churches to ride between for a year or two and then moved to a new circuit.
What is your understanding of baptism? Who Can Receive Baptism?
Baptism, an outward sign of inward grace, is a sacrament ordained by Jesus in which water is used and an Ordained elder says the prayer “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” It represents the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a means of grace that is a complete work of the Holy Spirit and is permanent. You cannot be un-baptized much the same as a pickle cannot become a cucumber again, therefore it must only be done once. Anyone who has not yet been baptized can receive the sacrament of baptism.
As Always thanks for your time and giving this a read. If you enjoyed it share it with friends, you can do so easily with one of the buttons below. I pray that you will embrace life in the Love and Grace offered to you through Jesus Christ, and that you will always remember Jeremiah 29:11. – For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to Proper You and not for harm, Plans with Hope for the Future.