An Intersection of Callings
November 13, 2018
Our call stories are as varied as our fingerprints. Some are called in very ordinary ways. Like Elijah, they feel God calling them out of sheer silence.
Others, however, are moved into ministry dramatically. When Rev. Dr. Eddie Rivera was a 15-year-old boy growing up in Mexico, he was a fourth-generation Methodist. Joining the “family business” of ministry was not a difficult decision, but it did not feel like a calling. It felt like following his dad’s legacy.
Then, on a trip to a charismatic church, everything changed. Eddie sat down with his family in the back row and listened as the pastor started to preach. In the middle of his sermon, though, he just stopped. He called the church to pray for the call to ministry of their youth. As the church prayed, Eddie felt a hand on his head. The pastor had moved to the back and began praying for Eddie. He let Eddie know that God had placed a call to ministry on his life.
Two years later, Eddie had a dream where he was so loud he woke his entire family. They switched on the lights in his room and asked what was wrong. His father and sisters told him he was not speaking Spanish in his dream; then Eddie remembered, that in his dream he was preaching in English. Two weeks later, Eddie received a scholarship to attend Lydia Patterson Institute, where he would learn English and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, Eddie is the District Superintendent (DS) for the El Paso District in the New Mexico Conference. His calling has shifted from shepherding a congregation to serving as a missional strategist over a geographical area that includes 1.4 million people. While his role has changed, his love for the church and passion for ministry has not waned.
This is the point at which Eddie’s calling and TMF’s calling intersected.
The role change from pastoral leadership to district leadership is significant enough, TMF believes it needs to offer two Learning Communities designed specifically for DSs, one for those in their first year and one for those who are continuing in their position. “TMF does a very good job of defining the role of missional strategist and addressing the adaptive work that is our responsibility,” Eddie shared. “These Learning Communities are incredibly important, because there is no other learning experience for DSs, besides being on-the-job.”
The first year and continuing DS groups, provide tools that help DSs strengthen their ability to serve as a missional strategist, pastoral coach, mentor, and supervisor. These distinct, but critical elements of the job can determine a DS’s success or failure within months.
Additionally, the groups provide a safe space to troubleshoot unexpected problems and unprecedented challenges. For instance, during Eddie’s first year in the TMF group, he shared a difficult situation that concerned two pastors in his district. He was struggling with what to do and the TMF group helped him in real-time. “I was able to approach the two pastors in different ways, based on the wisdom of the group, and find discernable pathways for both situations. Of course, the cabinet helped as well, but I cannot understate the value of this group in assisting me to address those issues effectively as a new DS,” Eddie stated.
He not only feels more prepared to face extraordinary challenges because of his work with TMF, but he also feels more equipped to help churches refocus their ministries on their true purpose – advancing the mission of Christ in the world.
Through TMF Learning Communities, he gained new insights and tools that helped him be more effective in implementing the vision he had for the El Paso District. To reach the mission field in meaningful ways, he wants churches to help every person who lives in their geographical area find a place to belong, believe and be useful. In order to do this, Eddie organized the district into 11 missional areas and set up teams, who are focused on reaching their mission field. Their goal is to create one sustainable ministry with this vision in mind. The entire purpose of charge conferences for the district this year is to approve those ministries and to bless them as they are implemented.
With this vision, approximately 50 churches have dedicated themselves to reach 1.4 million people; this is the power of intersecting callings and the hope Leadership Ministry brings to the church.