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Iorg: Seminary’s relocation ‘has no parallel’

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) — Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, said he didn’t lose sleep over the decision to build two new campuses and relocate the seminary.

“What caused many sleepless nights was the personal changes I was asking you to make,” Iorg told an audience of students, faculty, staff and seminary supporters Feb. 4.

“I was asking you to leave your homes and find new doctors; your children would need to change schools and leave their friends; you would need to find new churches.

“But as the last year has gone by, what I’ve heard from you is how God has provided houses in Southern California when you’ve never been able to afford one before and how spouses are finding jobs to replace those lost, and how children are successfully adjusting to the move.

“These personal stories,” Iorg said, “show how God has blessed this transition.”

Speaking during the final president’s convocation on the Mill Valley campus in the Bay Area that has been the seminary’s home base since 1959, Iorg said he was deeply moved by the spirit in which seminary personnel had responded to the transition.

“We’re all living through a process that has no parallel,” he said. “We’re moving one of the largest seminaries in the nation 400 miles. Yet, the comments I’ve heard from students is that you value the transition — not just for the experience — but also for what you are learning as future change leaders.”

Addressing these future leaders, Iorg outlined principles about change, using texts from Matthew 9 and Joshua 6.

“First, major change must begin with direction from God,” he said. “A challenge of leading major change is separating God’s direction from our ego and our own desire for change.

“It’s easy to claim to speak for God when it may bring us notoriety. Discerning God’s direction and then having the courage to act on it is a significant first step in leading major change.”

Iorg said major change also requires clear initiative from a leader.

“Being a leader means you lead,” he said. “Some younger leaders have an aversion to saying ‘here we go.’ Don’t be afraid to lead. Don’t be afraid to stand up and say this is what God has told us to do.’

Next, major change happens when followers accomplish the task.

“Major ministry change requires determined effort by many people, not just the leader,” Iorg said. “Any major ministry change almost always involves an implementation process — whether it’s a church building program or a mission field reorganization or finding funding for a nonprofit.”

Incremental adjustments are normal and desirable in ministry organizations, he said, and most organizations need to move along at that pace.

“But sometimes incremental change is inadequate,” he said. “Sometimes major change means major change — a radical departure from the past.”

Leading major organizational change, Iorg said, usually takes years to accomplish.

“Quite honestly, some leaders don’t want to ask God the question, ‘Where do you want our church or ministry to be in a decade?'” he said. “The reason some leaders don’t want to initiate major change is because they don’t want to commit to leading a three- to five-year project.”

Finally, major change is messy and difficult, but it results in God’s purposes being accomplished and God being glorified. Iorg said he doesn’t think of the seminary’s move to Ontario and Fremont [cities in Southern California and the Bay Area, respectively] later this year as the ultimate goal. Instead, he thinks about 2025.

“Our mission isn’t moving seminaries or creating organizational structures,” he said. “This generation of the Golden Gate family bears the burden of doing these things, and when we finish, we’ll celebrate completing this task.

“But relocating is not what will ultimately bring glory to God. Hundreds and thousands more people trained to go to the nations with the Gospel — that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”

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  • Kathie Chute