Lecture 8: Context of Ministry (part 1)
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There is no ministry without church and no church without ministry. Any ministry finds its legitimacy as it relates to the local church. Is it possible to be communal without being institutional?
Context of Ministry (part 1)
II. Church vs. para-church ministries
A. John White
1. Is the local institutional church a legitimate context for ministry?
2. Can we carry out the mission without the institutional church?
3. Is a non-institutional form of church possible?
Course: Theology of Ministry
Lecture: Context of Ministry (part 1)
A couple of people asked about, and maybe part of was provoked by Gregory here, is just this whole aspect of call to ministry and I’m going to try to address a little bit of that in this lecture. And I’m just trying to build block by block this theology of ministry and started with looking at the whole foundation of the Trinity. And made the statement that ministry is grounded in intra-Trinitarian ministry. Does that make sense? All ministry is grounded based in intra-Trinitarian ministry.
Male 2: Are you saying within the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then it happens within the interdynamic approval?
At least what I am trying to say by that statement is that as we build our theology of our ministry the first place we go to is the Trinity. And ask the question what does the Trinity teach me about ministry? When we looked at that last week I broke it down into those three components. What does the Father teach us about ministry? The Father’s ministry is a ministry that’s largely about what? Shepherding, caring so shepherd becomes an essential metaphor that we see from Genesis 48 all the way through Psalm 23. Isaiah 49, et cetera. Yeah.
Male 2: When you have this shepherding site of God, of the Father [inaudible] but the real is King.
Male 2: And there’s churches where it’s like oh you’re going pastor because he’s God [inaudible]
Male 2: In the Old Testament Jesus is God’s [inaudible]
There are a lot of metaphors. And what I tried to do there is just use perhaps, I think it might be fair to say the essential metaphor. I mean there are a lot of them. Paul uses a lot of metaphors as well, but he tends to circle around one, one or two. I’m not trying to suggest it’s the only metaphor but it is maybe the leading metaphor that therefore tells us something anyway about ministry. And what I drive from it is that is that ministry it largely about caring.
We then went to Jesus and we looked again and saw in him that there, again, is this essential metaphor of shepherd. That he comes, he is the shepherd part excellence. And we looked at his ministry and step back from it to say, okay what did we learn about ministries we look at Jesus. Ministry is largely relational because Jesus was relational. In fact what’s another word here, he was – the word I used, he is incarnational. He comes and he comes into our neighborhood.
As I was saying to my church yesterday, Jesus didn’t yell out from heaven, by the way if you all need any help I’m here. Just you know, give me a call. I’m available between these hours. Nor did he come and walk this Earth and say you know I’ve got my headquarters in South Jerusalem on Murray Street. If you need me, come by. Be happy to help.
And Jesus didn’t come and say, you know where’s a good church? I’m looking for a good church to really get in with the body and spend – no he came into the neighborhood in an incarnational way. He came and he went all the way to the worst of the worst. It’s amazing isn’t it, still to think about that. When Jesus came the first thing he said, kind of, well not the first but I mean, somewhere early on he basically said, you know where’s a good party to go to? You guys know? And that’s what he did, where he went, and where he hung out.
I just love that, because again, you can’t imagine Jesus in that setting, kind of going, hey you know what you’re wearing offends me. I didn’t appreciate that statement. This is what I imagine. I imagine Jesus there with the tax collectors and the prostitutes and they’re probably all eating and just having a good time and probably in some of their coarse language saying things, and I can hear Jesus saying, you think that’s a good joke? Let me tell you. I mean probably no one knew jokes like Jesus. Right?
I mean who could probably be funnier than Jesus without the coarseness, without – I just imagine him there and just people probably laughing like crazy. I think a lot of Christians would go, oh, I just can’t imagine that. Because our view of Jesus is I think, Philip Yancey said, the Prozac Jesus. He just walks around completely without any emotion because all the movies make him out like that right? You know he’s walking, you know and everybody’s walking with him and there’s absolutely no expression. I am the Father of One. You know kind of thing.
Whereas I mean what you picture when you read scripture is he must have really connected because it wasn’t like they threw him out and said, hey, you’re wrecking the party, get out of here. But they kept inviting him back without compromising holiness, which therefore says to us, that in our ministry, ministry is by its very definition, its nature is going into the neighborhood. It’s incarnational.
We also saw that ministry is by its very nature it’s inclusive. Jesus doesn’t exclude, he includes. To say to us, our ministry has to be inclusive. And ministry by its very nature I just give you another one, by way of reminder, is subversive. What do we mean by that? Jesus’s ministry was subversive, suggesting ours is subversive. The nature of ministry is subversive. It means what? That we’re sly? Okay, maybe another word.
Male 3: At least the impact and it can’t hurt. It can impact people where they don’t want to be impacted and they should.
And impacting maybe in ways that are not so obvious upfront but work interiorly in a powerful way that transforms and changes. So people didn’t realize it at first. Like his parables did. Like salt that’s imperceptible or seed working beneath the surface, which Jesus, again remember, he said this is what the kingdom of God is like. It’s like someone who plants seed, and the farmer sows, and he works at it day and night and then something mysterious happens that no one can explain. You know there’s a crop.
That is the nature of ministry. It is not so obvious. It’s inclusive, incarnational. The spirit then also comes along and teaches us something else about ministry, that ministry what, what did we say on that? What’s the spirit’s primary role as he comes Pentecost? What is he – he’s coming to give power so that the very nature of ministry if we’re thinking Trinitarian is that ministry has something of power to it. And if it doesn’t have power, it means what? It doesn’t have?
Male 4: Spirit.
It doesn’t have spirit because that’s the spirit of God’s foundational roles. So we’re getting a little bit of a feel of ministry. Now what I’d like to do is move to a second piece of this and then talk about the nature of minister. We talked about ministry but I’d like to talk about the nature of minister. And talk about identity, because if we’re going to effectively ministry and have a good theology of ministry we have to know who we are. And as I have shared with some of you that one of the real crises is we don’t know who we are.
We know we’re minister. We’re here training for ministry. But what does minster mean anyway? And sometimes we may not be sure. And part of it goes to misguided models. In fact let me go back here and ask a question, what’s created this confusion regarding identity? There are a lot of things, but I’ll give you at least three I’ve thought of. And one is a lack of training. We don’t know who we are because no one really has helped us understand who we are. I’m not sure when I graduated from seminary back in the dark ages that I knew really who I was when I came out of seminary. I knew I was a seminary graduate [09:00] but I didn’t really know what – who I was as a minster. I didn’t know for a long time.
Part of it is a failure of training, part of it is misguided models. And when I say misguided models who do we fundamentally view ourselves as, we almost can’t help but see ourselves as if we’ve given our whole self to seminary for a few year. What begins to get kind of locked in our brains as far as our identity? Well actually we go out and now there’s – I think there’s kind of a shift. Now we’re no longer the student. We’re a graduate. So who are we?
Well the model I’ve had in front of me for quite a while is teacher. So I went out and saw myself as teacher. Now is that a bad model? Well I can’t say it’s a bad model since I’m a teacher now. And it’s okay if I’m going to out and as a minster be a professor and some of you are – have said here in this course I’m training to be a teacher. This is the future teacher role.
But that’s okay unless we’re going to be something else. So I sometimes use the illustration for me, I ended up as pastor but because I still didn’t know who I was I first of all approached my ministry as teacher, which means the very first day I preached a sermon I got up and what do you think I did?
As you can see this is a [hotpoxlugomina] here we’re looking at. It’s found only here in the New Testament. Although as we look at the second word, it’s a – Paul uses this seven times here in Philippians. In fact it’s only found eight times in all of the rest of scripture. And everybody was just right there on the edge of their seat. Give us more. No, actually the crisis was when I preached my first sermon I got to the end. What do you think I did? We’ll take this up next week. No, I didn’t say that. But I had been trained to think like that. So I get to the end, I don’t know what to do. Everybody is looking at me. I’m looking at them.
So I did what any good pastor does. What do you think? Let’s pray. Pray is always our out, isn’t it? You know some day someone is going to write an article on the abuses to prayer. Ever notice when you’re trying to get everybody’s attention. Hey, everybody, come on. Hey. You know no one is listening. And then what do you do? You always pull out your prayer card. Okay, let’s pray. All the sudden it gets quite. You know? You go this works good. Or I’ve got to get the choir out of here and I don’t know really what would be a good way to – let’s pray. Okay, that’s your queue. Exit. So that’s what I did.
Male 5: The same thing it’s always the same thing when you transition [inaudible]
And it was pretty easy to pray that first time, but I remember driving home thinking who am I? I’m somebody else. But I wasn’t sure who I was. And I’m simply saying that you have to wrestle with that too. Whatever you’re going to be you’re going to be minister and as I’ve heard you share a little bit of where you’re going with your lives that’s going to take a lot of different forms, but who is a minister? And what is your essential identity?
Part of what creates the confusion is misguided models such as teacher for me, or technician is another misguided model. I think a lot of people see today because they go to conferences and it’s all about how you can be a better technically in your ministry. It hasn’t answered the question who you are but it’s certainly focused on helping you do it better.
And then of course another, on this number two misguided models, is often times we begin to take our identity from what everybody else expects us to be. That’s the worst of all. Because the problem is whatever ministry you go in, everybody has an expectation. Correct? I mean if you’re in a church, everyone has an expectation, if you’re pastor, of what you should be. And some of the things I’ve listed over my tenure as a pastor is errand boy. I mean when I first started out, in my very first church, I remember this lady calling me one day and she said, “Pastor, Pastor John?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Pastor I need you.” I said, “Okay.” She said, “I need some Pepto-Bismol. Can you pick it up?” I thought, okay. Is that who I am? Am I an errand boy?
Referee. Sometimes all the sudden you’re thrust into being a referee. You know between a husband and wife and they all want you to take sides. That’s the problem. A lot – they want you to take sides. And when you don’t take sides, then they get mad at you; therapists, repairman, rabbit’s foot. Rabbit’s foot is one of my favorites. I had this guy that would every now and again call me and go, hey, Pastor John. I’m going on a couple of appointments you just want to kind of ride along and we can just visit? Of course in my early naïveness, well of course. Yeah. It would be great to be with you Paul. And then, come in I want to meet a perspective job here. Oh this is my pastor. Suddenly I realize, I’m just this guy’s rabbit’s foot.
Punching bag. I won’t go into all the stories on that one. Savior, keeper of tradition, justice of the peace, recruiter, gateway to the flock, employee, healer, priest, CEO, friend, spiritual cheerleader, matchmaker, well you can see after several years I was thoroughly screwed up. I didn’t know who I was. You know it’s kind of a work of art. It’s whatever people see. So what’s created this confusion? Misguided models and lack of training are a couple of things. What’s needed is the theology of identity. I needed to figure out who I was just like you do. And I’m trying to save you some grief by figuring this out before you go out there and let people figure it out for you.
So you go back and you build theology and you say, okay, I should take, first of all, my essential identity, it goes back to who God is, as we mentioned last time. And in particular I’d like to focus on a couple of things here. I think first of all we say, who am I? It goes back to who Jesus is because Jesus clearly established what minster is. I mean he came and flushed out God. In it he tells us what minister is.
There are a couple of key things that when I look at Jesus helps define who I am. And again, I go back to shepherd, because he came as shepherd, John 10:10. And what he came to do continues to remain in motion, Hebrews 13:20, which refers to Jesus even in his present ministry as shepherd of our souls. Hebrews 13:20. And 1 Peters 5:4 with Paul writing to the leaders, encourages them to be under shepherds of the great shepherd. I’m simply saying that who Jesus was is still who Jesus is. And the role Jesus came into this world with is the role he still has.
And we look at that and we say, okay, that begins to give me a clue of who I am. I am shepherd, whatever that means. I’m also this because this is who Jesus was. Secondly I’m servant. Jesus didn’t just model servanthood, he was servant. Mark 10:45. I came not to be served but to serve, which implies several things. It implies that I get in sync with God. Get in sync with what God is doing and serve him. That my first task is not to serve to people, it’s serve God.
Here’s the second implication for ministry that I don’t use my position to appear busy or important or to exercise power over but I use my position to serve people. Matthew 23. And I resist any urges to dominate, browbeat, control, coheres, because none of those things are marks of a servant. I’m saying the obvious and yet there are just a lot of people in ministry that don’t understand that. Seminary is essentially servant school, servant training school. Essentially what seminary is. Somebody said that to me when I was in seminary early on and I always remember that. It just kind of puts things in perspective. I mean this what makes seminary different than a whole lot of other institutions. You’re not training for some important position with a lot of money and you’re training to go out and be servants.
So who am I? In all this mix, now you could take all those things that people assumed I should be and say well, you could be a servant to all that. Isn’t that okay? Well not quite, because there are some other things.
A logical place then, and when I began to really work through my identity then I went to the Apostles, who give their own models of ministry. I found some similarities because you see shepherd again come up. Peter understood that role, 1 Peter 5:2. Paul references that with the word pastor or shepherd in Ephesians 4:11. It becomes sort of the metaphorical cast that shapes a lot of ministry.
Servant is another one. In fact this, I think, is Paul’s most frequent metaphor. So Paul uses this often. Colossians 1:28, of this church I was made, what? A minster, a servant, deaconess. Colossians 1:28, 25-28. 1st Corinthians 4:1 Let a man regard us as, what do you think? Servants. Let a man regard us. 1st Corinthians 4:1. So Paul says here’s my identity. Here’s who I am as minster. I am servant. 1st Corinthians 3:5 We are servants of a new covenant.
Another metaphor that used is, is here’s a third one. Steward. Again, back to 1st Corinthians 4:1 Let a man regard us as stewards of God’s mysteries. I’m just trying to begin to lay out a foundation here theologically, who are you as minster? You are a shepherd. You care for people. You are a servant. You take your queues from someone else. And you are a steward that means you are to manage resources. 1st Corinthians 4:1, same passage. Yeah. Paul uses both in that same verse.
What is steward? It’s a technical term of that day for someone who managed, ordered, regulated estates. Peter uses it, borrows from it to describe the responsibility of stewarding gifts. Paul used it to talk about stewarding what? Do you remember? I am a steward of the mysteries of God. I have a stewardship of that. So now you’re starting to begin to understand who you are. You are a steward and you are called to steward these mysteries. This, this is what we go out and we steward. That’s part of our identity. People ask you, well you’re a minster. What does that mean? That means I steward God’s mysteries.
There are other metaphors here and let me just list them real quickly. Ambassador. 2nd Corinthians 5:20, it means that part of our identity is found in trying to reconcile relationships between parties. That’s part of who we are, right? We’re trying to reconcile people with God. Paul likened himself to a builder, 1st Corinthians 3:10. What are we building?
Male 4: Church.
We’re building the church. Exactly. So who am I as a minster? I’m a builder. I’m building God’s church. I’m not tearing it down, I’m building it up. I am a gardener. 1st Corinthians 3:9. What does that imply? What am I in my essential identity as a gardener what do gardeners do?
Male 4: Cultivate.
They cultivate. Yeah, they sow. It requires a lot of patience.
Male 4: They care.
And they care.
Male 4: [inaudible]
Yeah. They pull weeds, always looking for weeds. Sometimes though as Jesus said maybe sometimes we have to leave the weeds there unless we damage other things. But we’re trying to make sure that one day there is fruit. Speaking of that, what else are we doing then? What’s the nature of our ministry? We’re harvesting. We’re watching. We’re seeing the seasons. The time, the cuirass moment and we harvest.
At least for me as I began to work through my identity I went to Jesus and you and put this maybe next to your notes, what became also a very good help for me was Thomas Oden and his book on pastoral theology because Jesus becomes the central paradigm for him in terms of identity. And I learned a lot from reading Thomas Oden. In terms of the metaphors I went to a guy named David Fisher who in his own question, who am I? And he raises that question it was a crisis for him too in his ministry. He went back to the all the metaphors of Paul, I’ve just given you a few. But he went to all these metaphors and he began to – because he said I could use Jesus as my model but I’m not the son of God. There’s only one son of God but I can relate to Paul. So he went to Paul and he studied this out and he said who did Paul see himself as? And Paul used metaphoric language to say this is who I am. And you put all those metaphors together and you begin to get a picture.
So what I did is I read Oden, I read Fisher, I looked at Christ, I looked at the – all these different metaphors and something just kept pushing me to look deeper, to go further. I went back to the Old Testament and I began to understand this whole identity thing by looking at offices. Or I should say really looking at Old Testament leaders. What are they tell me about my identity?
In studying this realized that Christ has been historically viewed as having three roles or offices that all go back to three essential Old Testaments offices. You know them, right? What’s the first one? Prophet. What’s the second one? Priest. King. So Christ comes and he brings all three of those to perfect fulfillment.
Okay, so follow my logic for a moment. In a certain sense the offices, these Old Testament positions were like the roots of who Jesus was. They all form, so to speak, the tree, Jesus being the tree. And say this is Jesus, let’s say the branches in that then become the apostles, and then the ministers, us out here, and if you take the roots kind of like this that go back to the very beginning you see the role of prophet, so where does Jesus manifest his ministries of prophet?
Male 4: [inaudible]
Practically every time he spoke right? He was declaring thus say it, the Lord. He was giving a prophetic message. He was speaking the word of God. So he comes and he speaks and he speaks with such power he is speaking prophetically and he’s speaking kingdom language such that people are saying he doesn’t sound like anybody else. So we see him there. And then he comes are priest. And what was the role of a priest. What does a priest do?
Male 4: [inaudible]
Yeah. So a priest, I always think of a priest this way. A priest stands in the gap in the middle and the priest is representing God and the priest then comes to God and represents who?
People. So here are the people, the priest is the middle, turn from God to represent God and to lead people to God. The priest is the essential worshiper. And then at the same time the priest comes and he brings to God the people. So he stands in the middle. So Jesus comes at what? The perfect high priest. He comes and represents God and he stands in the middle as the intercessor then he comes and he brings to God our failures. And he still lives to make intercession. He still is carrying out his priestly role. So we see the king. What’s the king’s role?
Audience: To rule.
The king’s role is to rule, to administer the resources, to give the direction, here’s where we’re going. So Jesus comes – I’m sorry?
Male 5: [inaudible]
Yeah. And to fight. So Jesus comes and he comes as the what? The king? The king of kings. So Jesus in a sense does the same thing. He comes to set the vision. He comes to lead his people and he comes to in a sense manage the resources. Yeah?
Male 6: He is human, I mean much like Xavier, [inaudible] Paul was building some power.
Male 6: But he has not seen Christ in his communication yet.
Yeah. And we will come one day to make war The other one I think that’s often left off and some add this as a fourth office is the sage. What’s a sage’s role? When we look in the Old Testament these are four essential leadership roles and the sage comes to do what?
Okay. The sage comes to speak words of wisdom. Here’s another way to describe it. The sage comes to take truth and distill it and bring it into life. The Old Testament sage took the Torah and flushed it out in language people could relate to, could live out. That’s what wisdom is. It is truth flushed out. So does Jesus come as a sage?
Wait a minute, he’s constantly speaking wisdom, in fact, Matthew 12 says, there’s one wiser than Solomon who’s here. And of course that was a reference to Jesus. Here’s what happens. Jesus comes and his essential identity you could say goes back to these four offices. He comes as the profit, he comes as the priest, he comes as the sage and he comes as the king. In a sense, just about everything Jesus does relates to those four.
And he integrates all four of those. In the Old Testament a king wasn’t a priest. Sometimes there was some integration. Solomon is a king and he’s what?
Audience: He’s a sage.
And he’s a sage. And sometimes you have people in dual roles. Only Christ brought all four of them and integrated all four of them together. The application for ministry is that as I was working through my identity I went back to these four and it began to click for me. I began to say, okay, I think I know who I am. Jesus comes and he says as the Father has sent me, what? So I am sending you. And find my identity in a certain sense in Christ by Christ identity to a certain extent goes back in these roots that he comes in manifest.
Building a theology of ministry somewhere you have to work out a theology of identity, who you are. When I kind of worked this through for me, in my particular function as pastor under this larger umbrella of ministry for the first time I figured out who I was. And from that point on when I do ministry for me everything I’m expected to do or I’m determined to do I have to go back and go through this sort of mental grid. I’m a minster. I’m a pastor. Therefore if Jesus is my model and I go back here and actually these four models can be found in the metaphors of Paul, all four of them. That’s what in fact really kind of like sealed the deal, it confirmed it for me. Putting that all together, for me in terms of identity, here’s kind of a little check list I go through.
Am I carrying out a prophetic role? That is when it comes to speaking am I declaring what? Thus say it the Lord. People don’t come to hear me. They come to hear a word from God, as they come to you in your minister role. Because of our identity we have a prophetic role.
Secondly, you have a priestly role. This where people get nervous a little bit. Maybe with some Catholic hangover for some, but as minsters we have a priestly act. And in a certain sense I think all of us who are minsters will find ourselves standing here. If you’re truly a minster you will stand here.
What that means is is that there is a priestly task, a role that you have if you’re a minster that says I stand before God representing the people God has called me to minster, whether it’s the group of clients in a counseling office, and maybe I shouldn’t have used the word clients, excuse me, but whether it’s them or whether it’s a congregants or whether you’re a parachurch leader and you’re leading these people you have a priestly role, a function to bring them before God.
At the same time you have a responsibility to represent God to them. Okay? That’s what a priest does. There are people in my church that I realize that I need to come before God, so to speak, and pray for them because they don’t have enough maturity to pray for themselves. And they don’t know what to pray for, but I do. Like God you’ve got to deliver this person from this sin that they are blind to. And they can’t even see it. God, I’ve got an abusive husband right now. He thinks he’s just being a strong man but he’s an abusive man and God you’ve got to change his heart. That’s a priestly function right? That’s part of my role. That’s part of your role.
There’s a sagely role too. And the sagely role says that I have a responsibility to take truth and distill into life. That can happen in a pulpit. It happens in a counseling situation. In fact when people come to me for counseling I realize this is my sagely role. And I tell people right up front, I am here to try to minister the truth of God in a relevant way that hopefully is going to relate to what you’re facing in your life. That’s my sagely task because that’s what the sage did.
Now the last one, okay, this could get real misunderstood. Yes I am – see myself as a king. I am the head of the church. No, a king’s role is to provide leadership in my ministry. I have that role too, to help shape vision, to administrate the resources, and to lead. And you as a minister have a leadership role as well. You don’t have to buy into my model, what I want you to buy into is this. This whole experience for me came out of thinking theologically about who I am. That’s what I want you to get from this lecture. Think through who you are theologically. I gave you a process I worked through. You have to have the similar process. You may come to a different conclusion, but I’ll tell you this, when I came to this here 10 years ago. In fact it was 10 years ago this year that I worked this all through theologically and it’s the first time I began to figure out who I was, who I am. I have used this as the grid for what I do every day.
And if what I’m expected, what people ask of me, if it doesn’t fit that identity, guess what? I’m really liberated. Just say I’m sorry, but that’s, that’s not who I am. You need somebody and that’s who they are but I’m not who that is. And the sooner you work that out you’ll be liberated from people’s expectations.
Okay, now what we’ll do next time is I want to talk about if I am a minster does that set me apart from others? What is this clergy laity distinction? Do I have to have a special call? What does that look like? I want to talk a little bit about that because that goes all back to your identity, who you see yourself.
See you next week.
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