Exiles in an Election Season

“Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.”
Jeremiah‬ ‭29:7‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

I’ve never been a very politically-minded person. I don’t have a lot of patience for politics. In this season leading up to our presidential election, I am digging in a bit to familiarize myself with the platforms and policies of the candidates so that I can make my own educated judgments about who I think should be the next president.

Some of the debates have been civil and healthy; others have been more akin to a circus. I’ve never used the word “buffoonery” more in my life than I have in the last 2 weeks. I have growing convictions about who I would prefer to win the election and who I deeply hope will not win the election. The more I come to an understanding of who these candidates are and what they stand for, the more thankful I am that I serve a king and not a president. 

Like all Jesus followers, I am nothing more than an exile on mission. It is important that I (we all) seek the welfare of the city into which we have been sent as exiles. To say that Jesus is Lord is to say that Caesar is not Lord.

Searching for Houses of Peace

  
A person of peace is a God-prepared person just waiting to be found – and they are scattered all over campus. These people exhibit 3 traits:

  1. They receive the messenger. 
  2. They receive the message. 
  3. They receive the mission. 

 We are looking for them in two places – neighborhoods and networks

On campus, residence halls are the “neighborhoods.” Majors, clubs, and organizations of all kinds are the “networks.” The Gospel is the only way to find persons of peace. Engaging every neighborhood and network is the only way to see No Place Left without a Gospel-presence. This is our mission at BCM. 

The Dance/War of Less/More

Pursuit of Less
At heart, I’m a minimalist. That means I believe “less is more.”

Less is difficult.

Less demands discipline.

Less requires clarity.

Assault of More
At heart, I’m a hoarder (of mostly intangible things).

More is easy. Natural.

Technology allows/excuses more.

Follow more people on Twitter.

Subscribe to more blogs.

Say “Yes,” to more committments.

Vast sums of money are made by people who can help empower others to say “Yes,” to more and more, while never giving them an additional hour in the day, or encouraging them to first ask, “Why?”

More crowds out vital. And vital is done half-heartedly in order to make room for more.

The Dance
Neverending. Always inviting.

Round
and
round.

You have 168 hours.

Split into 7 days.

The dance is learning to do the right things, not just more things.

To Ohio and Back

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Last week Kelly and Emily and I embarked on a road trip to Ohio to attend the wedding of two former students of ours. When Annie called to tell us the good news that she and Matt were getting married, we had only recently found out that we were parents-to-be. We couldn’t miss the wedding, so we put it on the calendar. Despite the challenges of traveling and attending a wedding with a 3 month old, it was a beautiful and joyful event.

Leaving the reception in Southeast Ohio to continue on to our old home in Northeast Ohio, we were surprised by a growing sense of sadness. The closer we got to our old home, the sadder we felt. You see, that’s an odd emotion (at least to some) because no one really seems to care that much about Akron, OH. To be fair, there are some people I know who rabidly love the place. Most would agree that Ohio isn’t high on the list of vacation destinations or retirement locations. That’s even more true of Akron in particular. The first bumper sticker I saw when we moved to Ohio said “Stuck in Ohio.” Interesting.

But in the three years we lived in Ohio, it became more than the place we lived – it became home. So a year ago (almost exactly now) when we began our transition back to NC, we were overcome with emotion and running short on time. This all started flooding back over us as we drove into town, saw our old house, our neighborhood, and friends. There even came a moment while driving through Akron when Kelly said, “I just want to take some pictures of everything.” We laughed about how that might have been the first time anyone has ever said that.

As we spent the next couple of days visiting with friends, the sadness began to subside. We were able to enjoy being present with people we love, but we both had a deep sense of confirmation that we had done what the Lord wanted us to do. We are where he wants us to be. It was a wonderful reminder that even when God calls us to say goodbye to people and places that are near and dear to us, he will bring us through it and he will give us joy in our obedience.

It was a surreal experience to be back in Ohio, but it is encouraging to see what the Lord is doing with us even now here in Boone and through BCM of the High Country.

The Spring is for New Things

Last time I checked, it’s been just over 8 months since I’ve posted a new update here. Certainly that’s not for lack of new things happening in the lives of us Pucketts, but maybe because of all the newness. Last time I checked in, we were just getting settled after a mostly unexpected move from Akron, OH to Charlotte, NC to Boone, NC. I alluded to lots of changes happening in the NC BCM world, and that has only progressed and continued to develop. When I accepted this position with ASU BCM, I assumed I would be taking over a fairly static ministry role with a reliable trajectory.

What I knew coming in was that the Baptist State Convention of NC (BSCNC) had made the decision to relieve their campus ministry staff of their duties and shift the ownership of the respective BCMs from BSCNC back to the local churches that surround each of the campuses. A shift this drastic is anything but painless, but the idea is to call the local churches to account for the mission fields in their own front yards. This was the rapidly unfolding situation that met us as we arrived in Boone. I can’t speak for other regions and campuses, but I can happily report that the Lord is at work here in the High Country.

Denominations and churches are not known for agile and speedy decision making – especially in a time of major transition, but in a period of around 6 months, the major building blocks were put in place to move us from Convention ownership to the launching of a non-profit organization (BCM of the High Country) overseen by a diverse Board of Directors. I am honored to serve as the Executive Director and Lead Missionary. During this time of transition, some things will remain relatively the same. The main thing that will remain is our outward focus on reaching students who are far from God. If BCM is anything, it must be a missionary hub.

There’s so much to tell that I’ll returning here to post about life and about ministry vision and updates for BCM of the High Country. Just know that I am thrilled to be where I am, and to be doing what I’m doing. Would you pray for me and my family as we hit our stride in Boone and at ASU?

Updates on Life

BCM House

 

Just over a week ago Kelly and I moved from Charlotte to Boone. We are settling into our new home and I am just getting started with my new job as the Campus Minister for Appalachian State Baptist Campus Ministries. Kelly and I both graduated from ASU and we were both involved with the BCM. When we left Boone, we never thought we would end up here again. God has been at work in major ways, far out in front of us. Nothing else could explain this transition. I’m simply thankful to have this opportunity.

There has been a lot of change happening in the NC BCM world these days. ASU BCM isn’t going anywhere. I’m thankful for that. I have only seen the very beginning of what I’m getting into here at App, but I can see God doing some really exciting things already. This is going to be a good year!

Time for Reflection

My life has been different since the move back to NC. The biggest difference has been characterized by disconnection. There are some negative aspects of that, sure. But overall, I think it’s been a good thing.

Let me illustrate what I mean:
I’ve moved away from social media.

I no longer have “a ministry” I’m responsible for.

I’m near to family and a few local friends, but mostly, I’m disconnected from my deepest community.

But I’ve needed time to think. To process. To prepare before moving forward again. Time to breathe.

It feels unnatural, but it’s beginning to feel more normal. The good and bad thing is that I know this is a temporary phase. We are in a bit of a holding pattern.

I’m excited for what’s ahead – especially because I have no idea what that is. But I’m open and preparing.

I think we all need time for reflection.

Identity

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Today marks just over a week and a half since we moved back to North Carolina from Ohio. Just 11 days ago we were Midwesterners and today we are Southerners. It doesn’t totally feel real yet, but a lot has changed in a short period of time. Even before we made the decision to relocate permanently, I knew that not doing full time traditional ministry would be a challenge as it would no longer be my “identity.” I wouldn’t be a campus minister or a pastor for a while. This is even more true now that I am in the very beginning stages of a transition into the next stage of my life and ministry.

Who am I?

Before this move, I could have answered that I was a campus minister or a college pastor. Now, not so much.

But before the move, and even now, I see this as a really good thing. Ministry can be dangerous in that those of us who do it vocationally are liable to make our ministry our identity. Strictly speaking, I am not a campus minister – I am a child of God who served as a campus minister. I loved my job, but I should love the Lord more. This transitional time is a good reminder of that.

I’m excited about what is ahead for me – but I’m trying to embrace this time I have to recalibrate.

So far, so good!

The Next Stage of my Ministry – Pt. II

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“You never know when God will change your plans.”

I’m pretty sure that I misquoted it, but the above quote captures the essence of something I heard from 2 different guys at church this past Wednesday. One was a younger guy (just a little older than me) and the other was a much older man. They said this to me separately and about different topics, but nonetheless, I heard them.

That comment, spoken in the best kind of ignorance, struck me. It struck me because I have just lived it over the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been basically silent (at least here on the blog) about my upcoming transition – partly because I’ve had a lot going on, partly because I have been sorting everything out, and partly because of what this post is about in the first place.

God just threw us a curveball.

I received a call out of the blue with a tentative offer for a new ministry position back in North Carolina. The details aren’t important at this point, but it was something that we could not reject outright without thinking and praying through it.

Keeping things concise, we fluctuated from deciding between one job or another to feeling the need to be closer to our families in NC. We recognized that the issue wasn’t so much about choosing between two equally compelling jobs as it was feeling the deep desire to be closer to family, especially as we begin thinking about having kids one day.

Hello, curveball.

We have made the incredibly difficult decision to permanently relocate to NC. We have pulled out of the church plant, reluctantly at first, knowing that to stay could very easily become damaging for us.

With heavy hearts we will leave Ohio at the end of the month. But with deep excitement we will be heading back to North Carolina.

I suppose this is what it looks like to let God call the shots. It doesn’t always make sense, but that’s not the point. We’re just looking forward to what God will do and praying for the right doors to be opened.

The Next Stage of My Ministry

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This morning (Sunday, 3/24) at worship officially marked a new stage of my life and ministry. It was announced to the congregation from the pulpit that I will be transitioning out of Broadman this summer. There is much to say about this, and one single post will not contain it all. Expect to read more about this.

I have been chomping at the bit to talk about this openly, but these things take time and patience is a virtue. That being said, we are responding to God’s call to step out in faith to join the H2o campus church network to plant a church on the campus of The University of Akron. God has been at work far beyond what we’ve been doing ourselves, and this U Akron plant definitely has his fingerprints all over it.

We will be finishing up this semester as planned, then we will be engaging in support raising full time, mostly in our home state of North Carolina. This will be a major change for us, but one we are excited to take head on.

There are many changes ahead, but I feel deeply confident in God’s calling. The greatest blessing by far has been the overwhelming response we got from our Broadman family this morning. There were some tears and a lots of hugs. And lots of encouragement. We have a heaviness of heart in leaving Broadman but we are convinced that we must press on.

I am looking forward to what God will do in the comings days, months, and years.