Archives For ministry

Let’s make our faith communities beautiful again using the unsexy, ordinary tools that have always worked: truth, confession, humility and prayer. They are surely not fancy, but they save and heal.

Jen Hatmaker

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The Washington Post features an article by Jen Hatmaker on the terrible cost of a consumer church model for the staff and people of a congregation. She describes a sort of dysfunctional spiral where the people expect results from the pastors/staff and, in turn, the pastors/staff feel like they’re forced to make committed volunteers’ lives busier and busier.

Each group feels resentful; pastors wonder, What more do these people want from us? and the church folks wonder, What more do these pastors want from us? This approach is not making disciples but is creating a lose-lose situation where no one feels they can deliver.

 It sets leaders and followers up for failure, creating a church-centric paradigm in which discipleship is staff-led and program-driven.

The truth is that, ultimately, none of us can deliver.

That’s the message of the gospel–Jesus has done what none of us can do, and he is making happen those things that we cannot make happen.

Only Jesus can ransom us and free us from the penalty of sin and deliver us from the wrath of God. Only Jesus can transform our lives from the inside out so that we are holier people–reflecting him in our character and our actions.

Your pastor can’t do that for you.

If you expect that from your pastor, and he or she buys into that message, then here’s the likely outcome:

Maybe we start here: 90 percent of you [pastors] believe you inadequately manage the demands of your job, and half of you are so discouraged, you would abandon ministry if you had another job option. Any career in which 90 percent of the laborers feel insufficient indicates a fundamental problem. When your nearly unanimous cry is “I cannot do it all,” maybe the answer is simple: You actually cannot do it all and should quit trying. [Emphasis mine]

In my own reflection on ministry, I’ve come to see the beautiful simplicity of the Christian life when viewed through the prism of the classical reformed faith. What I’m talking about is a way of life that places the ordinary means of grace as central to the life of the individual and of the congregation. You can read my post on this topic, here.

What does this look like?

This is a start:

Q: What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?

A: The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all of which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

The church needs to recover ordinary means ministry. That is, before we start talking about missional practice or the five-fold model of ministry, we need to establish that the foundation of Christian faithfulness is no less than following the pattern established by the apostles—gathering for word, sacrament, and prayer.

Our congregational gathering for common prayer, for the proclamation of Scripture, and for the celebration of the sacraments provides the corporate foundation for our private and family lives of devotion. It also provides the base from which we are sent into the world as part of God’s mission to the world.

The one thing that ties together the great works of God across the centuries is the resurgence of the means of grace as the heart of life in Christ. For the church to stand firm in its new cultural exile, we must once more embrace word, sacrament, and prayer. The reality of the Christian life is that a thousand whispered prayers while hanging laundry on the line is of more value than a handful of celebrity pastor conferences.

Additional resources: Ligon Duncan on the Ordinary Means of Grace [link]

The pastor’s marriage

July 17, 2014 — 1 Comment

What does the pastor’s marriage tell us?

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O Gracious Father, we humbly beseech Thee for Thy Holy Catholic Church,

that Thou wouldst be pleased to fill it with all truth and in all peace.

Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it.

Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it;

for the sake of Him who died and rose again and ever liveth to make intercession for us,

Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord.

Amen.

The Book of Common Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA), 1946, 1964.

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It is a tumultuous time to be a part of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Our culture is shifting and with it our church. Some changes are for the better, some relate to things indifferent, and some run counter the tradition we have received as members of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic church. I have my opinions which readers of this blog will likely know. Rather than write about issues, today I’d like to offer some words to those of us (which is really all of us, regardless of our theological orientation) living through these times of change. In a sense, I am writing this post to myself as much as to anyone else. If, then, you are so inclined, join me in reflecting on how we can respond to the challenging times in which we live.

  1. Do not be afraid. Offering God’s help to Israel, Isaiah prophesies: “[D]o not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (41:10). Fear is natural, but fear can give way to faith when we prayerfully recite and rely upon God’s covenant promises to us found in Scripture. The reformers used a motto that captures the broader perspective of the trials we know face: post tenebris lux–“After the darkness, light.” Christ is Lord of his church and he has not forsaken her.
  2. Do not be hasty. The Proverbs contain this admonition: “Desire without knowledge is not good, and one who moves too hurriedly misses the way” (19:2). When we are afraid or anxious, it is easy for us to rush to judgment. In so doing, we easily move too fast and perhaps move further or faster than we ought.
  3. Do not cease in prayer. Prayer is central to the Christian life: it is one of the chief means of grace. Paul writes, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). God both hears our prayers and by our prayers works in our lives to give us comfort and care.
  4. Do not compromise your convictions. Scriptures gives us the example of Daniel, who remained faithful to God even when instructed not to pray. If there are matters upon which, like Luther, we find that the Word of God will not allow us to compromise then we must stand firm. It may mean that you’re the only vote against a motion; it may mean that you do not participate in some service or action of a church of council. Regardless of what it is, stand firm.
  5. Do not cease confession. Nothing is more dangerous to the soul than sustained theological disputation. By nature we are prone to sin and nothing is more tragic than winning a theological argument while losing one’s soul. Martin Luther remarked, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” He also is famous for having said, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” The heroes of our faith were all men and women who dedicated themselves to prayer.

Final Question: How do you deal with challenging times?

 

 

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