I will be out of town for the next 5 weeks. My original plan was to finish the upcoming House Church Seminar for Laypeople in Jacksonville, go to San Diego for the House Church Conference for Pastors, come back to Houston and preach on Sunday, and then depart for Korea on Sunday afternoon. But I could not get a ticket to LA, where Korean Air Line flights depart. The only ticket available on that day was for a flight departing in the morning. If I take that flight, I can’t preach on Sunday morning, so there is no point in coming back to Houston. So I decided to go to Korea directly from San Diego. That way I can worship at a church in Korea instead of traveling on Sunday. I will be vacating pulpit for 5 consecutive Sundays.
I will be leading 6 meetings while I’m gone, 3 in the US and 3 in Korea. These include a seminar for pastors, a seminar for lay people and a conference for pastors.
Until recently, I had made a conscientious effort to not vacate the pulpit more than 2 Sundays in a row. But I may be taking more Sundays off from now on since Pastor Sookwan Lee can take my place while I am gone. I will be less tired if I spend three or four consecutive weeks in Korea when I visit instead of going there more frequently on shorter trips. Another advantage in taking longer leaves is that it gives Pastor Lee the option of delivering a full sermon series if he wants.
I know that some people are apprehensive about my frequent travels. Some say that they feel like little children whose father is absent all the time. Some express concerns that Sunday attendance goes down when I am gone. But this is the price we must pay when we commit to supporting the house church movement. Certain sacrifices are inevitable.
Even though I rationalize my frequent travels this way, I do feel guilty about my absence. Our congregation is the most important thing to me, more than any other ministries. I started my ministry with the goal of making our church members happy, since my own church life had been mostly unhappy. My goal has not been changed. If my house church ministries affect Seoul Baptist adversely I will stop. But I believe that our church is mature enough to do well with its senior pastor traveling often.
The house church movement still requires my active participation because second generation leader groups have yet to form. I must continue to travel and lead seminars and conferences, despite whatever guilt I may feel.
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