Thursday, February 14, 2008

Missional Manifesto III

What is the "job" of a pastor?

These ideas about leadership lead to misguided notions about what the role of a pastor should be. These notions are rooted in culture and are based upon value systems that are contrary to the gospel.

In North America the culture of the strong leader has pushed aside a proper, biblical understanding of the role of a pastor.

A pastor is not a CEO. Yet pastors are encouraged to follow the "take no prisoners" strategy of strong leadership. Because we have turned the mission of the Church into a to-do list and have lost our theological moorings, our pragmatism quickly degenerates into an "ends justify the means" mindset.

A casual observer may more easily compare much of what masquerades for Christianity with Nietzsche's power ideal than with Jesus' focus on vulnerability and service and Paul's conviction that God's power most often shows through our weakness.

Brian J. Dodd, Empowered Church Leadership, p. 83

Some pastors suffer from the messiah complex. They need to be needed. Others buckle under the weight of "responsibility." But this is not a responsibility placed upon them by God. Others mindlessly follow the model of business leaders and sports heroes. As "quarterbacks" it is their job to "take control of the huddle."

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.

Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, pp. 43-44

To be truly effective, pastors must give up the idea that they are the key to success. They must avoid the temptation of thinking that God needs them.

Our strategies, action plans, pastoral resources and entrepreneurial church revitalization techniques have become not the solution but the problem. Our ministries need to be crucified. They need to be killed off.

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 10

If anything of any lasting value happens in the Church, it is not because of the skill, effort or dedication of a pastor. The only way anything worthwhile will come about is through the work of the reigning Lord Jesus Christ.

Everything that we "know" about pastoral ministry has to be rethought.

Ministry is not a matter of a minister working hard, preaching relevant sermons, being a super-efficient congregational administrator, attending those who are sick, downcast, grieving and lonely, all the while growing the congregation and charming the people with a winsome and attractive ability to relate warmly.

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 119

All that we think we should do and can do and are doing in ministry must be put to death.

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 13

So is there nothing for a pastor to do?

There is much important work to be done by pastors. At its heart, the work of a pastor is primarily theological.

The work of theological reflection in a profoundly changing culture must be reintroduced into the daily practices of pastoral life.

Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanuk, The Missional Leader, p. 170

The Christian leaders of the future have to be theologians, persons who know the heart of God.

Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, p. 68

Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Theological reflection requires fluency in the Scriptures, personal knowledge of God and a deep understanding of the culture. Doing theology should not be left to those in academia. It is not a luxury reserved for those who have extra time. A pastor should never say, "I'm not a theologian."

Theological discernment is the primary skill we need. Regardless of our therapeutic skills, without theological discernment pastoral care does not happen. God undoubtedly is up to something, but it will be in spite of us if we are not focused on the present ministry of Jesus Christ.

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 131

The task of pastoral interpretation is through and through theological, always asking the key question Who is Jesus Christ for this person, and what does this mean for faith and faithfulness?

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 137

Doing theology does not mean memorizing the propositions of some dead thinker. The work of theology is more narrative than it is propositional. The content of the Old Covenant is the story of God's interaction with his people to deliver them from slavery, oppression and their own faithlessness. The New Covenant is likewise a story, a continuation of the previous story but with several surprising twists.

At its core, pastoral work involves bearing witness to the joining of two stories, the parishioner's and God's. Who is Jesus Christ specifically for this person amid the particularities and exigencies of her current life experience?

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 128

Proclamation is an important part of the role of pastor. Preaching is not about tips and techniques for a better life. It is not about selling tickets to heaven. It is not about mobilizing volunteers.

Everything else we might do is an addition to speaking of God. Because God is means God acts, we must speak of the God who has acted, does act and will act in time and space in, through and as Jesus Christ. Everything else we do is secondary, no matter what its seeming institutional, programmatic or administrative importance.

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 132

Commit yourself again to ever more deeply becoming a careful preacher of Christ. Don't preach to grow your congregation; preach to bear witness to what the Lord is doing, and let him grow your church.

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 44

The primary task of the pastor is theological reflection and proclamation. To that the pastor must add the ability to "connect" with other people.

No matter what your theological skills, if you do not know how to relate to another person, your pastoral work will not get off square one.

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, pp. 130–131

The effective pastor cares for people, not in the abstract but as individuals. The effective pastor has empathy. The effective pastor knows how to put others at ease and just be with them.

I would argue that in today's society, any attempt to model your life on the life of Christ must include a genuine attempt to hang out regularly in third places. Genuine incarnational living demands it.

Michael Frost, Exiles, p. 59

Incarnational ministry is not about goals, agendas or schedules. Incarnational ministry is simply being with people redemptively. Incarnational ministry is the "enfleshment" of God's love, mercy and grace.

Ministry is no longer about us and our skills. It is now about the real presence of Jesus Christ, whenever and wherever in his gracious freedom and love he is Emmanuel, God with us.

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 16

Incarnational ministry is impossible if the focus is on results. When we start to press, we begin to rely on our skills, commitment and effort. The ministry stops being about the presence of Jesus Christ and starts to be about "closing the deal."

All our instincts and training tell us that we should do something. Our sense of responsibility makes us feel guilty that we are not trying "hard enough." But, if we give in to these impulses, we lose our long-term effectiveness, and possibly our souls as well.

To live and minister in light of these truths [of the gospel] you really do have to have a lot of peace in your heart. That comes from the realization that you don't have to make it happen. You just have to be truthful, follow your studies, stay with your fellowship with the few who are close to you, and just keep going. Because, truthfully, what we need is a revolution, but revolution is always very dangerous. And human revolutions always devour their children. And so what we need is a revolution that is actually conducted by Christ. And that means that we have to be content not to make things happen.

Dallas Willard, "New Age of Ancient Christian Spirituality"

The issue is not How does Jesus get in on our ministries? Instead, because he is the living and reigning Lord, the issue is now What is he up to, and how do I hitch a ride on whatever he is up to?

Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, p. 12

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"

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