Saturday, February 25, 2006
Up until this week, I had 2 books that were my personal favourite on the subject of Pastoral Ministry. Eugene Peteron's Working the Angles, The Shape of Pastoral Integrity was my first read in College, during a Leadership in Ministry class. His hold point in the book is that what matters is not the things that people see that matter but those that people don't, the "angles" behind the triangle of ministry. These he sees as our personal Prayer, our working with Scripture and our Spiritual Direction. It's a great book.
The second is David Hansen's The Art of Pastoring, Ministry without all the Answers. I read this for a Pastoral Ministry class in college (one which I read "Working the Angles" again for). In the book, Hansen goes through his ministry experiences in Montana, beginning in a tiny church where he did everything and had to minister to everyone - all kinds of people. he delves into the human side - doing a funeral for a non-Christian biker whom he never knew. He goes through his personal journey in dealing with Hell in the Scriptures and how he should or shouldn't address it in sermons. It too is great.
But I think I have to add a third, or at least a third writer/theologian/thinker to the mix. The most recent book, Lesslie Newbigin, being Geoffrey Wainwright's biography above Lesslie Newbigin, A Theological Life. We just read for class the chapter entitled The Pastoral Bishop and outlines a couple of things in there that I'd really been wrestling with personally, even before I came to Princeton. Here are a couple quotes:
The authentic pastorate will never be for Newbigin merely inward looking.
ministerial leadership may be defined as following Jesus in the way of the cross so that others in turn may be enabled to follow in the same way. - from Newbigin's God's reign and Our Unity
ordained ministry properly functions not to exclude or replace but rather to enable the varied ministries of all Christians and the corporate ministry of the whole Church.
A minister does not, cease to be a layman when he is ordained
In fact, Newbigin believed that the whole idea of a paid pastorate provided for enormous problems. It created an institutional mentality that made the church all about providing for its members, inwardly focused and ceasing to be the sent out community that was inaugurated by Christ.
Now that I'm more than halfway through Seminary, I'm getting closer and closer to confronting all of those ugly demons that exist inside of me - the desire for wealth, status, power, applause... not that seminary Flag Football doesn't provide ample opportunity for all of these. But this time next year I'll be looking at Churches, assessing whether I should apply to work there, what the "benefits" are. I'll be thinking about financial packages, expense accounts, budgets, purchasing a house and all the other ugly things that our society lifts up as essential. And right there within walls of the church that counter-cultural community inaugurated by the incarnate Jesus Christ, who called us to be united and missional, laying down ourselves for the sake of others, sacrificing!
These are real issues in the Church. But until pastors are willing to stand up and lead in the way of the cross, our communities will not be as counter-cultural, as missional or as biblical as they were meant to be...