Welcome to Tennant Across the Pond

Thanks for coming by--and welcome to Tennant Across the Pond, my online journal which will serve to update friends and family about my upcoming trips to Formby, U.K.

I will be in Formby twice in the next six months, serving with Formby Baptist Church. The dates for the trip are:

March 5-22 and May 16-July 12.

For updates, info, and reflections, read on.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Back Home: The Final Post

I hope you can forgive me, dear readers, for how long it has taken to let you all know that I am back in the States safe and sound. When I arrived back in the US on July 12, my family met me at the airport then immediately spirited me away to our family vacation in upstate New York. I had hoped to offer my final post then, but there was very little internet connection to be had, so I was forced to wait this long.

So, with apologies, here is my final post on Tennant Across the Pond.

My eight weeks in Formby flew by faster than I ever expected that they would--they were the fastest but densest weeks I have ever experienced in my life. When I look back at all the ministry events we were responsible for, how many sermons I preached, how many Bible studies I led, I am honestly amazed that I was able to do it. The Spirit of God was so heavily involved in every moment of my internship, and I am so thankful that He counted me worthy and put me into that ministry for those eight weeks.

I could have stayed much longer than I did. As I told Formby Baptist the last evening we were together, I fell head over heels for those people, and I really didn't want to leave. As I walked out the door for the last time until Lord-knows-when, I did weep. God is at work in Formby Baptist Church, and I have very little to do with it. The young people are rising up as a righteous generation, there are men and women of prayer in that church whose requests are answered mightily, and there are faithful Gospel laborers there who want to see more people reached for Christ.

Over this summer, I learned the value of connecting my heart with those whom I serve. I wept for these people, rejoiced for these people, became angry for these people, and was filled with wonder for these people. I connected my heart with theirs, I think, and that bond will not be easily loosened. I already miss so many of them.

God richly used these eight weeks to show me, beyond any shadow of a doubt, exactly what it is that I am called to do, and I cannot believe that He would call me to be a part of such wonderful tasks. In His mercy, it has fallen to me to be an under-shepherd of God's flock, a pastor to the people of God. What manner of love is this that I, even I, would be called to this? The Gospel is truly folly.

At the beginning of my summer, I said I wanted to look back and shrug. I wanted to shrug because God had done things that I had no part in, or used me to do things that I had no idea He was doing in the first place. I look back at this summer and shrug, realizing that it really was God who worked in those people, and I got to be a participant in His acts of grace among them. God moved, friends, and I am eternally grateful.

If you supported me with your prayers, thank you so much. It was your prayers, I think, that really empowered me and strengthened me, and it was your prayers, when answered, that caused God to move so profoundly among His people. Prayer works, period. So keep doing it! Further, if you supported me financially, I am overwhelmingly grateful; going to Formby would quite literally have not been possible without you.

If I called you or emailed you (or both) and you listened to me and gave me wise counsel, I thank you, too, because your words helped me when I was discouraged and gave me insight on how to proceed when the path before me was not clear. Chiefest among these are: My parents: Cindy, Gary, Wayne and Becky; my friends: Joshua, Travis, Amy, Luke, Mike and Tony; my mentors: Stuart, Rick, Neal, Mark, and Professor Boyle.

My chiefest counselor, of course, was Christ Himself, who always came to me with His gentle and powerful presence to will and to work to His good pleasure. He was truly my Shepherd as I shepherded his people, and Christ's love for me has never been clearer as it has been these last 8 weeks. So again, I say, that I am grateful that He counted me worthy and put me into that ministry, and that He used His love to compel me to service.

The question I am asked is this: will you go back? And the answer is vague, and I think disappointing to some. Am I called to England for full-time service? Well, our Father has not been explicit about it, but I have told Him I am very willing. Will I go back to Formby soon? Well, yes and no: I will not return to Formby in March for a variety of reasons, but I have a family there, so of course I will visit them before too long.

Has my heart been planted in English soil? I don't think so, but it was planted amongst a very specific portion of God's people, and I am sure that God will use that connection far more abundantly than I could ask or think. But I do not know what the future holds, so I will repeat my final blessing to them here. I sang it then; it was an old song I sang in my choir days, but you'll just have to read it.

My friends, we now must leave thee;
We go our way, though grieved be.
A strange land soon we'll greet.
We pray that come the morrow,
Our joy may grow from sorrow.
'Till we again, again shall meet.

So who knows where I will next be a tenant? Only God Himself. Until then, I look forward to greeting another strange land.

The End. (For Now.)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Our Partnership in the Gospel

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Philippians 1:3-5

On May 16, I met Josiah and Lauren in the plaza--a common meeting area on the campus of MBI--where we struck out for Chicago O'Hare International Airport and, ultimately, for Formby. That was nearly eight weeks ago. Then, we were not the closest of friends; we got along quite well, and I knew we would have fun together, but little did I know how important my friendship with each of them would become over the course of my summer.

We have spent very nearly every day together for almost two months, working side-by-side to serve Formby Baptist Church. We've laughed together, prayed together, eaten together, traveled together, and served together for the glory of Jesus, and now our partnership is drawing to a close.

In light of this, I want to take a moment to say how humbled and honored I have been to work side-by-side with my friends and partners--they are both incredibly talented and gifted people and most importantly, they are both passionate about Jesus and the Gospel. Working with Lauren and Josiah has shown me how God makes his manifold grace so obvious as we each use the gifts God has given to minister differently, but with the same goal.

Lauren is a gifted counselor, a fiercely faithful friend, and has an incredible ability to discern what others are feeling and thinking and always knows the right thing to say in any situation. Josiah has incredible confidence, is an unbelievably talented preacher, is not easily swayed by circumstances and has very thick skin. Their qualities and gifting have balanced out my weaknesses and amplified my strengths, and helped me do what I needed to do well.

I can say with complete confidence that, had I not been working with these two, I don't think I would be able to see this summer as a time of effective ministry and treasured spiritual growth. I am incredibly thankful and even proud to have served alongside them, and will always have fond memories of our summer spent together on this side of the pond.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Promise I'll Do My Best to Keep

Being in England for eight weeks has been a blast and introduced me to a number of really great cultural and social quirks that we just don't have in the States.

Like what, you say?

Well, butter is used on nearly every sandwich, and many sandwiches are called 'butty's.' Most people eat by mixing their food all together: every bite becomes a flavor combo of everything on the plate. You can walk into any grocery store and pick up ready-made meals that you can eat on the go. England does not use High Fructose Corn Syrup in any of its products.

So, the most obvious thing for me to do was to tell all of you this until you can't take it anymore. It was, in fact, my plan until I ran across this piece of art from an artist called Alex Noriega. Though some of his posts can be, well, off-color, they are always funny. His blog, Stuff No One Told Me, is where I got this piece of art. I promise I will heed the advice given to me.

Or will do, as best I can.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Twelve Days

Twelve days. Only twelve more days left in Formby before Lauren, Josiah and I fight our way through airports, fly across the Atlantic, and then part ways as we each travel to our final destination.

On Sunday evening, the three of us, along with my host sister Hannah, took a drive down to London and spent all day Monday and Tuesday in one of the most historic cities in the world. And, I am proud to say, we saw nearly everything there was to see. Not, perhaps, in the greatest detail (to enter the various historical sights, such as Westminster Abbey, cost about fifteen pounds; this is far out of the realm of a poor college student's budget) but we saw what we went there to see.

I woke up this morning, my legs sore from two days of endless walking, realizing that my time here is coming to a close. I have only two more sermons to preach; I will not be teaching any further weekly Bible studies because Josiah will be taking the last two. In other words, our official duties--those that we are highly visible for--will be drawing to a close. Our less visible responsibilities, however, will remain the same and even increase.

We will be each having a lot of one-on-one chats with people here over the next twelve days; in addition, we've been invited over a number of peoples' homes for dinner. There will be many, many informal times of counseling, pastoring, and caring for the people here.

This is, I think, because our time here has gone incredibly fast. I honestly cannot believe that the calendar is about to roll over into July, and that my last year of studies looms greater and greater on the horizon with each passing day. And the temptation is to fall away from being fully present, as a dear, dear friend of mine recently pointed out to me.

Indeed, the temptation is to allow my mind to drift to what is coming next, instead of staying put here, in the present. This is a particularly important battle, because the people I have been called to serve are not in the future--they are here in the present. And, because the grass is always greener on the other side, though I long for foods laced with high-fructose corn syrup and my parents' cooking, when I arrive back in the US, I will surely miss Coke that tastes of actual sugar and the crepes that have graced each week.

Indeed, though there is a part of me that longs to be with my family, I know that when I am with my family, there will be a part of me that longs to be with my family here. We always seem caught between these two--a longing to be somewhere else. Perhaps it is because, in our deepest hearts, we know that we are exiles and strangers in a foreign land, and so we always want to dust off this mortal coil and go to where we truly belong.

Or maybe it is that, when we love someone--that is, when we selflessly and sacrificially give ourselves away with no expectation of return--those people and places to whom we've given ourselves always call us back with the softest of whispers and the deepest of longings. Perhaps it's because when we give ourselves away, part of us remains with the person to whom we gave ourselves away.

Twelve days. Twelve days to give a little more of Kyle to people here, and then I am back with those who were given parts of me so long ago. But before that saddened departure and that glorious reunion, there is work to do while I remain a tenant across the pond.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Layers to Our Suffering

Here is a segment from a sermon I recently preached on Luke 19:41-44. In this passage, Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem as He predicts the city's destruction in 70 AD because they didn't recognize God's coming to them:

Even though Jesus knew the future of the city, it did not protect Him from present suffering, or for that matter neutralize it. This is because knowledge of the future is not meant to curtail or rid us of present suffering.

This is hard for us to think about, because the first thing we tend to offer a suffering person when they come to us is knowledge of the future. "It's going to be OK," we say, "because Romans 8:28 says that God works out all things for the good of those who love Him." Then, when that person walks away still suffering, we doubt the authenticity of their faith. But knowledge of the future is not supposed to neutralize or shield us from suffering.

So what is knowledge of the future for? What do we do with great passages like Romans 8:28, or Romans 5:3-5 or James 1:2-3? Well, what we don't do is offer them to people like they are an ibuprofen or antacid. They do not eliminate the headaches and stomachaches brought on by our suffering--this is not their intention.

Instead, these passages, and our knowledge of the future in general, add layers of meaning to our suffering. Think of them not as ibuprofen but as a bandage. They are placed on top of the wound, which aids the slow process of recovery, protecting our wounds from further harm.

In the same way, these passages and our knowledge of the future aid the slow process of recovering from a traumatic event by adding meaning to a slow process of recovery, and they protect us from further doubt and further pain brought on by thinking suffering is meaningless--because these verses declare to us loudly that our suffering has a purpose.

Thus, when we shepherd the suffering, it would be a grave mistake to give them the advice of "take two verses and call me in the morning." We cannot offer those who are suffering a verse and then walk away. Instead we offer them these verses as instruments to add layers to their suffering. We are patient with them and we journey with them through it.

So, when you shepherd someone who is suffering, don't offer them a verse, or even worse a Christian truism, expecting it to cure them of their pain. Offer a the Word to them as something which gives them life and helps them persevere as meaning is added to their suffering. Because Christ could weep while knowing the future, so can we.

I owe the core of these insights--especially the exegesis of Luke 19:41-44--to Dr. Gerald Peterman, who co-taught a course I recently took on suffering. His lecture on this passage opened the door for this sermon, and so I owe him a debt of gratitude for his excellent scholarship and pastoral heart.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Weekend in Sheffield

This is a long-overdue post--so I am sorry to my readers who have been holding their breath for me to write another post about what has been happening in Formby. It has taken me a good solid week to process my weekend in Sheffield and really think through the ramifications of what I learned on my 72-hour foray into Gospel Community.

But hang on a second; I'm getting ahead of myself. The first questions to answer are: why Sheffield? Why The Crowded House? Well, that's the easy part. Back in October I was handed a copy of Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. It was required reading to be on the launch team for church plant called The Painted Door, now my home church in the Central Time Zone. After reading the book, I was incredibly compelled by what I read and wanted to know more. The model of ministry presented in that book was one I committed to without ever seeing it in action, though we were in the beginning stages of making it happen at The Painted Door. So, in April, I shot an email out to Steve Timmis asking if I could visit the church where Gospel Communities started, The Crowded House.

I must say that I was surprised by how quickly the weekend fell into place--I received a nearly immediate invitation to join them for a weekend, June 11-13. I hopped on a train that Friday with some clothes in my back pack and plans to meet a man named Michael at the train station. Michael, an elder at TCH, crafted for me a busy schedule that would have me visiting the majority of the seven Gospel Communities all over Sheffield throughout the weekend.

For definition's sake, what is a Gospel Community? It is a small group on steroids. People in GC's don't just meet once a week, they meet all week. They do life together all the time. They are, in essence, true families of people from all sorts of different backgrounds and all ages. They eat together, study the Bible together, pray together, confront one another, disciple one another, and do evangelism together. And that, my friends, is about as poor a definition as anyone could ask for.

So, my weekend consisted of participating in various GC's weekend activities, asking loads of questions, and receiving a whole lot of love and kindness to boot. I have never met a more welcoming, loving, gracious group of people in my life; by the end of the weekend I felt like I could stay for the rest of my life. I made about three dozen new friends and had some much-needed refueling time in the presence of energizing people.

What I saw, at the end of the weekend, is that the Gospel can be radically and authentically lived out in genuine, jaw-dropping community and we don't need to grow dreads, quit our jobs and grow an all-organic garden and protest dairy farming on the weekends. Instead, we can live our lives normally, mundanely, and simply join one another in it. What I saw is a vision for the Gospel going outward that every person in TCH was passionate about and wanted to see move forward. I saw discipleship happening as naturally as breathing, and soul care coming from a twenty-five year old guy to an eighty year old woman. What I saw was biblical, exciting, visionary.

There are very few times in my life when words fail me--but this is one of them. I'm not sure how you describe watching what you've always hoped the church could be happening right in front of you. I'm not sure how you describe your dreams for the church becoming real life in a real place among real people.

Truly, there is only one word for it that I know: beautiful.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ode to My Mentors

In terms of ideas and ministry practices that I am head over heels in love with, it's hard to beat mentoring. I absolutely love being mentored and mentoring others--nothing "fills my tank" and keeps my heart in the game like mentoring.

It can certainly be frustrating, yes. No one likes being asked hard questions. "How is your heart this semester?" "What is the question you wanted me to ask you but I didn't?" "What are you reading and gleaning from the Word?" "Who do you pray for?" "What are you afraid of?"

I'm pretty good at talking, so I generally always have something to say. As a friend recently pointed out to me, "When does Kyle Hamilton Tennant ever speak concisely?" I've been known to say, "That which has to be said quickly isn't worth saying at all." (As a preacher, this terrifies those coerced into listening to me.)

Because I'm a good talker, I know when I have been asked a good question: when I cannot answer quickly. I know that I have been challenged when I have to stop and think about my answer. Those people who ask me those questions, especially those men who ask me those questions, are those with whom I seek to cultivate meaningful relationships.

During my time here at Formby, my mentor and shepherd is a pastor from a town not too far away. His name is Stuart Harding. I wrote about our first meeting in March, and will surely have much more to write about in the future. We've met once a week since I arrived in Formby, where he has asked me hard questions that made me think.

(The question that stumped me this week and has kept me thinking is, "How do you measure work?")

Stuart joins the ranks of great men who have shared their lives with me and helped Jesus form me into the man I am today. They have taught me ministry skills, but more importantly they have taught me how to be godly and live a life of holiness. Without men like Stuart in my life, I would rarely--if ever--stop to think about what God is doing in my life and in my ministry. Without men like Stuart, I would not know those areas in which I fall short of the glory of God and in which I am in desperate need of growth in Christ.

So, today, I write an ode to my mentors. All those to whom I minister will owe these men a great debt. Their loving hand in my life and their godly example have taught me to do what I do well. That is, because of their obedient service to Christ, I have learned to do likewise.

So, I'd like to thank: Josh Garber, Paul Armitage, Alan Kropp, Harry Britt, Rick Oaks, Mike Boyle, Neal Anderson, and Stuart Harding. You have loved me with the very love of Christ, and for this I am eternally grateful.