Welcome back to another episode of the unSeminary podcast. I’m excited to have Dr. Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary with us today.
Gateway Seminary started classes in 1944 with the long time dream of a theological institute to train men and women for ministry in California. By 1959 it had moved to a community next to the Golden Gate Bridge and entered new development plans over the years as it continued to grow in enrollment. By the year 2000 the 25-year development plan had expired. Gateway Seminary had now been established 50 years, had been through two development cycles, having the chance to go forward again. But they faced a new obstacle: the county where they were located had become one of the wealthiest in the country, and as a result, development restrictions abounded. The seminary faced extreme political and community opposition in moving forward—so much so that the idea of relocating began to seem the best option. But moving was not only emotionally difficult, it was also financially difficult because they would have this property that couldn’t be developed if they left it behind. Jumping ahead to 2013, a man walked into Jeff’s office one day and offered to buy the property, leading Gateway Seminary to move south to Ontario, California in 2016.
Dr. Jeff Iorg had the privilege of leading Gateway Seminary through this transformational move and learned a tremendous amount about how to lead in the face of major change. He shares more of Gateway’s story and his learnings with us today.
- All leaders face opposition. // No matter what you are trying to accomplish, all leaders will face opposition. Jeff believes that the predominant message in the Bible when you face opposition is to press through. Ask God to deliver and give you the grace to stand up to the pressure. That is what they did at Gateway. They had community meetings, they hired attorneys to look for ways to go forward, and most of all, they prayed.
- Sometimes you need to go another path. // Over time at Gateway, and through a process of prayer and dialog, they realized that the opposition they were facing was not an obstacle to be overcome, but rather a signpost to go in another direction. Jeff advises other leaders who are facing situations like this one to approach this option slowly. We are called to stand firm and have courage, and cannot run away at the first obstacle in our paths, but rather lean in and fight through. But sometimes God puts these obstacles in our paths to tell us to go in another direction and it’s wise to come to that conclusion slowly.
- Mission matters most. // When you are weighing big decisions and facing a major change, the most important aspect is mission clarity. Jeff recommends always going back to the mission before making big decisions, whether it be relocating, hiring new staff, or other changes that will affect the workings of your church. Tie that change to the mission, and make sure that the people in your organization see it and own it.
- Ask yourself questions during change. // How do you know when to make a major change? In writing his book, Leading Major Change in Your Ministry, Jeff wants to help leaders work through their own challenges when it comes to major change. He feels that five questions are important to ask before making changes:
- Is the change essential to the mission?
- Is there a shared urgency about the change?
- Is relational trust high enough to sustain the change?
- Is the timing right for the change?
- Am I willing to the see the change to completion?
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Ministries Following // Multicultural churches in California
Influential Book // Biographies of Eric Liddell, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, George Whitefield and Jim Henry
What you do for fun // Travel with family, San Francisco Giants & Oregon Ducks, Enjoying good BBQ