David Rohrer’s book, The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry, is a book to be slowly chewed over. I can’t devour this book.
Rohrer looks into the life of John the Baptist and reflects on ministry as a pastor. In Chapter 3 he reflects on the song of Zechariah as he learns from God that Elizabeth will bear a son, then he is mute. When John is born, Zechariah’s tongue is loosed and he breaks into song. It is a reflection on proclamation.
We serve a God who shows up. He breaks into time. God is not distant from his people.
Are we “singing” the truth? Are we showing people the character of God? His character is not easy to understand. Sometimes, in our human minds, it is contradictory and confusing. Yet, we proclaim.
God doesn’t just show up. He shows up to save. God came to rescue, redeem and forgive us.
Our task, as ministers, is to point people to the hard truth. We are indeed rebellious. We want our own way. We have wildernesses of our own making. As ministers we are tasked with pointing out the times when humanity has attempted to find their purpose outside of God’s best. We give them liberating truth of God’s power to forgive and restore.
The calling of ministry is not easy. It IS rewarding.
Sing the truth!
I need to go through Desiring the Kingdom by James Smith again. He is coming out with a follow up book and I loved this first volume. For him, the key to understanding church, Christianity, etc., is this : everything is liturgy.
This article articulates more his desire to have the Church understand that the “ordinary” just may be what we so desperately need in the life of the Church.
A couple of thoughts:
The church’s mission, to borrow from Simon, is to send out innovators and designers whose actions are “aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.” To do that work, innovators, restorers, makers and designers need the church to be an imagination station, a space where we can re-habituate into our imagination the “true story of the whole world.” Our imaginations need to be restored, recalibrated and realigned by being immersed in the story of God in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
That is what intentional, historic Christian worship does. It is in worship that we learn what God “prefers” for the world, giving direction to our design. We need pastors and priests and worship leaders who understand and appreciate that Christian worship is an imagination station, a place where the norms of the Christian story are carried and embedded in our worship.
This is why form matters. This is why the way we worship makes all the difference. The Christian liturgical tradition is a resource to foster cultural innovation.
Here is to being “cutting edge!”
I thought I would draw our attention to another pastors blog that I stumbled upon this morning. Dustin is a Lutheran minister, has a pastors heart and is someone I became associated with through another Aussie called to minister in the U.S.A. http://justifiedandsinner.com/
His latest post is about our churches being safe places of sanctuary and how the world needs to be aware of these safe places. It’s a stark reminder that often church isn’t a safe place. Our churches are not always a safe place to belong. I have seen punch ups in the vestry. Heated arguments between the brethren. Vileness and vindictiveness from leaders. Manipulation and control from the misuse of God’s word. And hatred towards the world from the congregation, stemming from a sense of self righteousness and not love.
But I have also experienced the opposite. Unconditional acceptance and love. Forgiveness, reconciliation, generosity of heart and spirit, and the ability to build up, encourage and empower the congregation into all that God has for us from his word.
The question to ask is how as pastors do we build the sense in our communities that the church indeed is a safe sanctuary for those in need.
We are headed into our third Sunday of reading through the New Testament this summer. This week is 1-2 Corinthians and Galatians.
One of the reasons I have mapped out this journey for our church is the need to disciple people better. One of the exercises I am asking my church to do as they read is think of the text as the “minority” view. Think about NOT being the dominant religion, or having laws that give you favor and access. There is a sense in my heart to prepare people for such times. We need to know the power of the Kingdom and the value of following Christ. There is a cost to that.
I also want to get conversations going in our church this summer about “hot button” issues. Things we don’t talk about, or talk about very well, in the church. Things like homosexuality and politics and war.
What other “hot button” issues are we not so good at talking about?
No thanks, Matthew Mason. I don’t want to “fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Col. 1:24). I want my best life now. (Crying like a baby)
Er…I guess actually I don’t. What I really want is to be conformed to Christ. To follow Him in His life here and now. To serve Him and His Church faithfully with His all surpassing love that does not look away from suffering, but embraces it with hands and feet scarred, with head beaten and bloodied, with the wounds of a back bearing the world’s rejection. Make me like you Jesus…even though it will (and must) hurt.
I was in a meeting with some acquaintances the other day, and we were talking about different ways to interview people who would like to teach a Bible study at one of our military chapels. Everyone in that meeting is connected with a church on one of our military installations, so we knew that we had to take our pluralistic, multicultural and multi-denominational contexts into account. Because everything can (and usually does) change in a moment’s notice in military communities, there is no such thing as consistency. It is rare for us to have the same congregation for a full year, so it’s a little bit different than a traditional church setting.
Taking all of these aspects of our context into consideration, our group was coming up with all kinds of questions to ask potential Bible study teachers that we may not personally know yet, such as: 1) Are you a Christian? 2) Do you believe in the Bible? 3) Does your family support your desire to teach? 4) What is your favorite Scripture verse? Why? 5) Why do you want to teach? 6) What types of studies are you interested in teaching? The list of questions went on and on. Most of the questions required nothing more than a one-word answer.
When I’m not in charge of leading a discussion, I’ll normally just sit back and listen to everyone else’s thoughts for a while before jumping in…that’s because I think we can learn an awful lot about people when we let them talk and observe their non-verbal communication skills. The discussion continued on for a while, and then someone looked at me and asked, “So what do you think, Alaine?”
My answer was plain and simple: Ask these potential Bible study teachers to tell you their story. Ask them about the people, events and situations that have shaped who they are today and then ask them about what really matters to them and why. The answers to all the other questions that we have listed will be answered if we take the time to ask these potential teachers about their life and then take the time to listen to what they have to say.
The room fell silent…No one said a word…Finally, someone asked, “Shouldn’t we be asking people to tell us their life story anyway? I mean, how are we supposed to reach people if we don’t know who they are, where they came from and what matters to them?”
So what are your thoughts about this? How do you go about finding teachers for Sunday School, Bible studies, etc.?
I have been more than a little disturbed by the latest edition of the Enrichment Journal (Summer 2012) put out by the Assembly of God USA. On the cover is a picture of signposts with the title caption: “21st Century Challenges to the Gospel” and the various signs pointing numerous directions reading: “Islam, Atheism, Pluralism, Buddhism, Calvinism, Annihilationism, Eternal Security.”
Really??? Is “Calvinism” a “challenge to the Gospel”? While the introductory article (written by Executive Editor George Paul Wood) tries to clarify that not each of these “challenges” are equal, yet he states that Calvinism is “like debris” that muddies “the clarity and purity of the river” of the Gospel (21). I find this to be over-the-top. Have we (the Assemblies of God) taken the bait of anti-Calvinism rhetoric (which is running rampant in the SBC). Is this a putsch to remove any trace of Calvinists from our Assemblies? I find the articles in this issue dealing with the topic to not only offer little more than caricatures which are easily rebutted (since they do not tend to actually represent Calvinism…which is not a monolithic, uni-vocal movement).
While I understand that I pastor in a fellowship that is traditionally and largely Arminian, I am flabbergasted by such topics being front-and-center in our movement. Are we entering a faze of “cleaning house” to remove Calvinists of any flavor in our movement? Can a pastor and congregation not be allowed to determine such matters which are in now way conflicting with our Doctrinal statement (despite the ridiculously worded statement against Eternal Security found in the Doctrines and Practices Disapproved…another false caricature)? It is disheartening to say the least.
What are your thoughts? Should the A/G (or the SBC for that matter) be making this issue into such a divisive issue? How wide is too wide in our allowance for theological diversity? Is an “Arminian” approach to the Gospel (if there really could be one so defined) really the only allowable one? As a pastor, what is our responsiblity in allowing for a certain broadness within the bounds of orthodoxy?
Our church has begun a summer journey of reading through the New Testament together.
We may just be onto something…
Of course, not everyone would have come “totally” prepared, but I will tell you it was exciting. People were talking to each other, asking questions, and really stretching to do something many have not done before. They are realizing they need to come to church prepared. It was a great Sunday.
From the blog of Dave Black comes this fun little post:
Sunday, June 17: 8:07 AM From Eric Carpenter’s Tradition Says … comes this delightful quote:
“I charge you, Pastor Timothy, in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the
word bible using an expository method. Be sure to have one primary purpose statement. Include 3-5 points, no more and no less. If possible, make your points memorable by starting them all with the same letter of the alphabet. Use the explanation, illustration, argumentation, and application method (since good illustrations are sometimes a struggle to think of, feel free to go here for help). Occasionally move out from behind the pulpit to keep the audience’s attention. Conclude with a memorable anecdote. Altar calls depend on the particular tradition of the church you are in. Spend at least twenty hours studying for each sermon. Rely on commentaries only only after doing your own study. Be ready in season and out of season on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, and encourage with complete patience and teaching preaching.” II Timothy 4:1-2 (TAV – Traditional Altered Version)
Isn’t that great? Now before your feathers get ruffled by what this says about Timothy, it will help you to realize that the church in Ephesus already had pastors/elders. Paul, in fact, had met with them previously in Ephesus. We sometimes forget this whenever we refer to 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus as the “Pastoral Epistles.” Neither Timothy nor Titus were pastors! And unless we’re careful, we’ll think that “Pastor” Timothy is an exemplar of a local church leader. I’m convinced that this misconception is at the bottom of a lot of trouble we face in our churches today. Timothy’s job was that of a personal apostolic representative of Paul. He was ministering in a church that had elders. Am I right? Well, you decide after reading Acts 20.
Church leader, take time to consider the order of things as God revealed these timeless principles. There’s a good reason. The health of your local church may well depend on it.
As a pastor, I cannot reform my denomination. It may need it, or it may not. But, as pastor, that may not be my calling.
David Rohrer points out that John the Baptist was not called primarily to reform his institution. If reform happened, it would actually be a by-product.
The call we need to see, as ministers, is to continuously invite people to wake up to God. Rohrer’s claim is that God doesn’t even have institutional reform in his mind. What God constantly deals with is people had fallen asleep spiritually and they needed to be awakened from their slumber.
We want the institutions changed. Young potential leaders leave my denomination (or don’t join) and other denominations because they have a problem with the “institution.” The “institution” needs to conform to their incredibly thought-out theological beliefs. We want the Catholic church reformed. Those in the Church and especially those outside the Catholic Church want it “reformed.”
As ministers, what we need to constantly do is call people’s attention to their own spiritual slumber. That is not exactly comfortable, and let’s remember it eventually cost John the baptist his life… but that is our calling.
The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry: Preparing a People for the Presence of the Lord