Mission of Ministry (part 1)
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We need to hear what God is saying through his word and proclaim it. A ministry of grace is characterized by a heart of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Mission of Ministry (part 1)
B. Ministry of Word (cont)
C. We share in his ministry of grace
D. We share in his ministry of presence
E. Ministry is a participation in reign
Course: Theology of Ministry
Lecture: Mission of Ministry (part 1)
I want to finish up context. And then I want to move into requirements. And then we'll talk a little bit about [phonetic] Purvis. I don't know if we'll get to all of them. But I want to go back to context because we didn't finish it yet.
I started with this, you remember, this kind of thesis that there was a day and age more like in my seminary days anyway when we questioned the legitimacy of the [phonetic] parachurch, whereas there's been kind of a shift it would seem that we almost are at the place today where we question church itself, at least what's commonly referred to as the institutional or traditional church.
I move to this question of "How does our theology guide us?" What I'm reacting to a little bit is a book like [phonetic] Barnis that I've mentioned revolution, where he sort of almost calls into question the institutional church today.
So, building our theology, here's where we started. We started with the fact that — first of all whatever we do in ministry; it's to be done in community, that there is no place for individualism in scripture. And we built that argument based on what passage of scripture? ... First Corinthians 12:13, which tells us again our identity is found in community.
And then we move from there to talk about the fact that the New Testament is largely the record of communities and a localized gathering. And each of these gatherings — I underscored this that I hope you underscored that in these communities structure is necessary.
It's inevitable first of all. And it's necessary. Part of what I am again reacting to there are those who almost refer to the institutional church as if it's something different than any other church. Every church is institutional.
It can't help but me. Everything has some form of structure if it has any existence at all. We talked about the structures in which we see a structure for leadership and a structure for care and a structure for accountability and even mentioned the metaphors themselves.
One of them that I think you mentioned that underscores this, the metaphor of building, which again underscores some structure. And that is something as I mentioned we can't avoid. What must we avoid? What were they? What's the first one?
It's to keep the function always in front. This is how we avoid it. We keep the function before the what? — Before the form, just like if you're taking Greek, while it's important to know the form — this is a present passive participle. What we want to know is "so what?" How is it functioning?
So function always is where we want to get to. So how do we avoid institutionalism? We keep the function in front of the form. We make the structures number 2, always the servants and not serve the structures. And we do that all the time if we're not careful.
We can do that with technology. Technology is to be our servant. But sometimes we can almost unconsciously make them the masters. You know how i know that's true? Walk in almost any day to my church. Walk by almost all the offices, and I see almost all of my staff sitting there in front of this screen.
That's not to say there's necessarily anything wrong with sitting in front of a screen. But if somebody from 100 years ago walked into the church not knowing what these are they'd go, "What are all those things that it seems like everybody bows down to or almost are glued to?"
When I discovered how subtly that structure becomes my master is when I find that I am responsive to every little sound of email that comes in. I almost become chained to it, instead of saying, "You know, I don't have to necessarily know when the next email comes in."
And it's a subtle form of mastery if we're not careful. So making structures, keeping structures the servants and not serving the structures, not serving the buildings, not serving the constitution, all of these kinds of things that can become our masters... And what I just want to make sure you underscore in your notes is that —
Just put something like this. It's very subtle. It's not something we just see, we recognize. We may be much more serving structures, serving technologies, serving buildings than we're aware of — Paul.
Audience Member: I think it's also important to us as well that in that [inaudible] behind that computer, [inaudible].
Audience Member: Where does that fit in what you're saying?
Well, here's where it fits in, Paul. It is its own shepherding that — but it doesn't replace certain aspects that really nothing can be a substitute for, like interfacing with flesh and blood. I'll use some of my staff as an example here.
I'm less concerned that they are making sure that they are responding to all of the emails with people as much as out there with people face to face, heart to heart.
Audience Member: I mean, I agree with that. I agree that face to face is better than email. But it seems that few people [inaudible]. I've gotten way further by email. And maybe it's because they're behind the screen typing and it's less intimidating.
And face to face wouldn't have got [crosstalk] even close to where I've gotten with that person by emailing back and forth.
Yeah, I'm not trying to discount the place of this. I'm saying there's a subtle form of starting to serve it that i think we need to be careful for. Sometimes we can look at an older generation that tended to serve more the structure of the building.
And we in a younger generation might go "You know, a building is just a building." But in all fairness, all of us are prone to serve forms if we're not careful. A younger generation, a next generation might be subtly serving technology more than they think they are, just like another generation might be serving the building more than they think they are.
How do we guard against institutionalism of any form of shape? We ask ourselves "What are we serving?" That's the point. It's a tool. It's a wonderful tool. But we can be a slave to it. A building can be a wonderful part of ministry.
But we can be a slave to it. Constitution can be a very important part of helping us understand policies, but we can be a slave to it when it becomes more important, you see, than other things. So keep the structures the servants.
Thirdly, I mentioned check that the wine skins can accommodate the fermenting Jesus. What does that mean?
Audience Member: [inaudible]
Yeah, because Jesus himself is not rigid or unchanging. In a certain sense, there's a fluidity to Jesus' mission, how he moves his mysteries, where he's going. And we sometimes want to take all that and try to fit 'em into, again, our structures.
And Jesus can't be fit into rigid structures. That's, I think, behind that parable he gave about the cloth sewing the new cloth sewing on the old cloth that rips it apart. And here's our challenge in this context of ministry is we keep the cloth new.
We keep the wine skins new. That's a huge challenge. For those of you in new planted churches, the wine cloth is new. The wine skin, I should say, is new. The cloth is new. But anything that's new immediately begins to get old.
As I share in some of my other classes, that goes back to something that I always think about from McManus — that the point of atrophy is at the highest point. Beware of the highest point. Atrophy is always something that started from the top.
Or oldest started from something new. Okay, here's the fourth. And I think this is where we left off here. The church in this context can be, in fact should be, both incarnational and attractional. Our theology would seem to argue that the church in terms of its context of ministry can be, should be both incarnational and attractional.
What I'm addressing here is this tendency to set up these "Are you incarnational or attractional? Or are you non-institutional or institutional?" — Saying we're all institutional, saying here's another aspect of the context. There is an incarnational and attractional aspect to ministry that we shouldn't necessarily deny.
Jesus became fresh and blood. And he entered into the neighborhood, so to speak, John 1:14, which is our mandate to enter into the neighborhood to be incarnational. So our context for ministry — if we're here gathered, our context in one sense has to be here, incarnational, fleshing out truth and unbelieving context.
That's a clear mandate from scripture. But let's not overlook the fact that the church gathered here as a context can also be a legitimate place for ministry, not only a ministry of edification but also a ministry of evangelism.
It can be the context also for reaching lost people. I sometimes think that we have made some of these things so black and white, so right and wrong, instead of saying "Wait a minute. There's a legitimate context in both places."
Is there a place for the church to be attractional? I think so. There should be times, occasions, places. Let me give you a very fresh illustration. Last night, we opened our church. We called it the harvest festival. We've done it now for 2 or 3 years.
But last night we just blitzed the area and just said, "Bring your kids. We're going to have inflatables. We're going to have a great time. We're going to have games. We're going to have prizes. We're going to have food."
And we just had a ton of people come. I was the cashier where we were selling food. I'd say 80 percent of the people I never saw before. And it was wonderful. And in fact, my executive pastor came up at a certain point.
He said, "You know, here's an encouraging word." He said, "A family came up to me and said 'You know, we've never been in this place. And, you know, what we see in this place tells us maybe this is a church we oughta check out.'"
There's a place for that. And 1 Corinthians 14, a passage that Sally Morgenthaler brings out in her book "Worship Evangelism," where she says worship is its own evangelism. She builds an argument out of 1 Corinthians 14:25 where the unbeliever sees something that he cannot identify any other place, something that’s profound, that's different from anything he's ever experienced.
And makes the point that the church-gathered can be also a place where the witness of worship itself. In fact she makes an argument — and I tend to agree with her — that perhaps one of our greatest witnesses is worship, where we historically tended to say "Well, worship is for the believers."
And then we move from that orientation to say "Let's really — let's reduce it down to where it can really relate to the unbeliever, the seeker mentality." There's a place for that, and I'm okay with that.
But could it be that sometimes we're missing some of our greatest, most powerful evangelism by letting the outside world come and see authentic worship. And then say "Wow, what is this? This is something profoundly different." There is a case for the context of ministry being here that can also do something that is being done here.
The important thing is that it's not a substitute for. And that's where I think the church, a lot of institutional churches, have got off track. It's that they have made it a substitute. They've made it all this.
And they have minimalized this. And what that looks like is like Bob Krepp when he comes to town and we talk about this church in Naples, Florida, which is to me as he describes it the ultimate attractional church.
Everything is based on "We're going to have Christian golf tournaments. We're going to have Christian this, Christian this, Christian this..." It's all happening there. Y'all come. So it's just built on attractional. And what that can do is begin to say to people "Hey, this is great. I don't have to really go out there in pagan places if we can just get 'em all here."
And that's a misguided theology of context, right? I'm building an argument that it can also be a misguided theology of context to say that this doesn't count, because it does. It has its own place. Okay, any question on that?
Audience Member: [inaudible] for the express purpose of being [inaudible]. What happens is neither [inaudible]. And so I [inaudible] group in real danger of losing that balance [inaudible].
Yeah, there's that pendulum that tends to — when we see we've gone too far over here, we instinctively wanna go way over here. Number five: Our theology would also affirm that the church gathered in a structured context is essential to building up the same.
That's pretty obvious. But I think in terms of building a theology of context we need a context of gathered, because it's in that gathering that we have the accountability. We have the edification. We have the growth that needs to happen, that otherwise won't happen —
Because we grow largely in the context of community, because that's where the gifts gather and grace is ministered to one another. Number six: The church gathered can also serve as a sort of mediator between God and the world. I'll try to explain what I mean by this.
The church gathered context for ministry can serve as a role, a mediator, a mediating kind of role between God and the world. Sometimes the church can be something like this, the church gathered here. And here is God. And here is the world in this kind of priestly ministry that we identified when we talked about the identity of a minister earlier —
That the church can be that role too. What I mean by that is sometimes when the church gathers to pray for the community — when our church gathers maybe every now and then to pray specifically for Washington County or for Portland, that can be a legitimate and important role.
Maybe part of it is where we see 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 6:19. They both talk about the indwelling spirit of God. But one seems to refer to the individual. And one seems to refer to the corporate body.
So we the church then are the [phonetic] Naas, the temple of God, the indwelling of God's spirit — just as individually we are this indwelling of the spirit. We can get out in the world and people see us individually.
And if we are truly representing Jesus, they see a foretaste of the kingdom of God, because they see the indwelling spirit in us. And the church gathered can be the same thing is what Paul seems to be indicating by talking about the indwelling Jesus in the corporate, where the church itself gathered is referred to the temple of the spirit.
Are you following what I'm saying? The church can have that powerful witnessing role itself as being this temple of the spirit of God. And if we truly are acting that out, people walk in and they get a taste of the future kingdom of God, which is its own powerful witness, just as they do individually with us.
Audience Member: Do you think that [inaudible]?
In the gathered?
Audience Member: In the gathered.
Well, you would think so if the church was truly being what it is called to be. You know, I always go back to Larry Crabb's book "Connecting," in which he makes that powerful point that there would be a lot less need for psychologists if people would release the indwelling spirit of God within them to each other —
Through the love of God, through their spiritual gifts, et cetera. If that's happening corporately, just imagine how powerful that could be. I just don't want to discount the power of the corporate community. Right now I think there's a refreshing and important corrective — too much of the church gathered.
But the word we use "incarnational," which is a great word — and we use it a lot — has to be tempered in balance with the fact that we also need to keep high this importance of the gathered, corporate community, not only for the place of edification but also for its own powerful witness that again one could build a case going back to 1 Corinthians 14.
That's the theology of context, something to think about. As you build your context for ministry, I think what I would say in all of this is make sure you keep things in kind of a balance — yeah.
Audience Member: [inaudible] that nuance of the attractional between us as a community witnessing the power of [inaudible] Christ and us having a great program — the difference of when your, let's say, friend's [inaudible] program —
And that will get up to Christ versus getting them into the church and we as a body [inaudible] through all of our gifts combined, through us being in church together... [Inaudible] size of attractional —
It seems to me a healthy ministry is where you are building into people this sense that they've got to be radically incarnational out there in unchurched, unbelieving context. And you're also building in here that this is going to be a powerful witness itself.
But this witness can agree or disagree. But this witness cannot compromise the worship and the edification and all that needs to happen there. For example, and maybe this is going too far, but let's say a willow creek for example that says —
Or that kind of ministry that says "Well, we'll put the worship in mid-week, for the believers may be missing again the fact that maybe one of its most powerful evangelistic ministries might be the worship itself.
Audience Member: Yeah, I guess that's a [phonetic] good point out there. Thank you.
Yeah. What Morgenthaler argues for is that — she says that in their surveys, a lot of people — there's a big front door, but there's also a huge back door, because a lot of people come in.
And because they don't see so much that powerful worshipping element might after a while say, "Well, it's a lot like what I already experienced. It just got a little God overlay." Now whether that's fair or not, I don't know. That's just her critique.
But these are the kinds of good things that you read that you say "Okay, so I got to step back and say 'What's my theology of context? How am I going to do this?'" And in this course on theology of ministry, it's really important that we all think that true — Paul.
Audience Member: I was just looking at [inaudible]. Are you talking about the one we incorporated [inaudible]
The 1 Corinthians 6:19 is more the focus on the individual. And the 3:16 would be more the corporate.
Audience Member: [inaudible]
Yeah. At least contextually I think, Paul, one might build a case that contextually one is speaking more to the individual being indwelled and one is speaking more to the corporate being indwelled. To go beyond that, I think what Ephesians — is it Ephesians 1 o Ephesians 2? — Uses the metaphor of the church is the temple, that we're building this building.
Again, we're the spirit of God in dwells in Ephesians. Why don't we look at that? Yeah, read that for us Paul. And I'm thinking of near the end about 20 — in whom the whole structure — [crosstalk] yeah, you're right.
Audience Member: [inaudible]
Yeah, so there Paul likens the church to a holy temple in which we all are the pieces coming together and then there in which the spirit of God indwells — any other questions on context? ... Okay, let's shift gears now and talk about requirements for ministry.
As we talk about building a theology, we've talked about identity, who is a minster... We've talked about the context. Where does ministry take place? I want to talk about — what does our theology tell us in terms of requirements?
And let me just start off with a little bit of introduction and just make this point that at the heart of ministry we are caring for souls. So it's really critical that we pay attention to our own. And that's a lot of work, isn't it? And we realize if we don't get that right it's really hard to be very effective as ministers.
It's what our people need in us. We can't overlook this or take this lightly. In fact we might almost say "Well, why do we have to spend some time on this? We kind of already know some of this." Maybe we don't know near as much about it as we should.
Ambrose rightly asked "Who seeks for a spring in the mud? Or who wants to drink from muddy waters?" Or he puts it one another way: "Who will think a person to be useful when this person is useless to himself or to herself?"
Requirements — what's required? I'm gonna give you about six things or so that are required and spend some time on each one of those, more time on few of them. The first one is obvious. I'm not going to spend much time. But our theology does tell us that, first of all, a requirement of a minister is that there is a clear conversion.
First Timothy 1:12-17, as Paul is charging Timothy with ministry, he recounts his own conversion experience, maybe in part. And Paul would do this from time to time to maybe give legitimacy to his ministry, which by the way is a good example for us —
That from time to time we look for those opportunities to do that with the people we minster to. Never tire of when you sense it's the right moment to share your conversion moment, because it's part of what gives legitimacy, authenticity to your ministry.
I did that this weekend. And I look for opportunities sometimes when I preach to, if it's the right moment, to just say "Here's how God grabbed hold of me — 16 years of age, Santa Barbara, Westmont College, at a rock, during a campus life retreat, God grabbed hold of my life."
Paul is doing that with Timothy. And we need to do that because there are a lot of counterfeits out there. We need to make our calling, our election sure, Paul is writing. So clear conversion, make sure that we are clear with people.
Make sure those you work with who are ministers, that their conversion is clear. Number two — and we've talked about this. And so I'm just going to say a little bit. And that is as far as requirement for ministry, there needs to be a calling.
We did that in ministerial identity. But it fits a little bit here too, so I just want to say a couple things. I want to re-emphasize that we think through our theology in this matter because it's not an easy issue to think through.
Contemporary ministry as well as an emerging generation places a lot of value on community, which is great, and a certain value on egalitarianism when it comes to ministry, which is again a helpful corrective to a clergy-led emphasis — what I think Michael Frost refers to as [phonetic] hierarchicalism in ministry.
But again this pendulum can also swing almost too far in the other direction. Paul puts it this way in his book "Shaping of Things to Come." How much longer can the church ignore Paul's radical dissolution of the traditional distinction between priest and laity, between holy mean and common people?
But here's a question, maybe in fairness back to Frost: Does Paul do that? Does Paul make this radical dissolution? Or does Paul make distinctions? And I think you can again build a case — and this is all, refers back to calling.
Paul does make a distinction at different points, for example in Ephesians where God has called gifted leaders to equip saints. Where you might find this tension — I'll point you to an article by Gordon McDonald in Leadership Journal. It was about 2 years ago.
And it's a journal — in fact you'll know it's the right journal because it's subtitle is "The Call." Each leadership journal has a particular theme. And this one is on the call. And there's a really good article by Gordon McDonald.
And he makes the point that we sort of walk a theological tightrope here. And it looks something like this. Here's this tightrope. And on one side it's critical to affirm that we've all been called into ministry.
James White's book, "Serious Times," makes this point that all of us have two callings as Christians: a calling to forgiveness and reconciliation and, secondly, a calling to follow Jesus into ministry. And it's important that we affirm that.
But on the other hand, and McDonald makes this point, it's also important to respect the particular call to I guess you might say God's leaders — that there's also a theology to build on there.
There's a place to respect the fact that God called certain ones into ministry. And Paul alludes to that again himself. For example in 2 Timothy 1:9 or 1 Corinthians 9:16, Paul uses some pretty powerful language to talk about if he doesn't fulfill what he's been called to do.
Now here's McDonald's point. If we nullify this, if we say "Well, we're all called to ministry," and there's not this distinction, we may go too far and then nullify the special place God has for ministers to lead the church.
And we may diminish the role or the sense of need for people to follow, which could be the church's undoing. And I go back to something I quoted by Will [phonetic] Willimont who said damage is done to the inequality of the ministry vocation when it is combined with the vocation of all Christians to follow Jesus.
That's something you — in our theology, we're going to have to think that through. In that leadership journal, The Call, there's another article by a guy who says "When you think about it in scripture, there are three calls." There's a call to all believers to forgiveness, reconciliation.
There's the call to all believers to follow Jesus and determine their calling, so to speak, what God has called them to. And then there is this third call. This third call for particular people, God says "I'm calling you to do this."
And again the argument goes something like this: Not everybody is called to be a Nehemiah. Not everybody is called to be an Amos. Amos is out there and all of a sudden God calls him and says "I want you to go." Not everybody is called to be a Jonah.
Not everybody is called to be an apostle Paul. The record of scripture is God reaching out and in this distinctive way calling certain people into ministry that is not the same as all of us having this general call to serve God.
So it's like; step one, call to forgiveness; step two, called to follow Jesus; step three, for certain ones. How do you build your theology? You're going to have to work that through, think that through. I think one can make arguments in different ways.
Where do I land on it? I've come to the place where I believe that there is a place for all three. In my church, I have no hesitation. In fact, I make it a real part of my ministry to remind people often if they follow Christ they've been called into ministry.
And I challenge them to find what that is in their lives. All of us have this call on our lives. I preached that this weekend. But in this context in seminary, I also to you would say I believe God has called particular people into ministry that's distinct from what I preached yesterday.
In a certain sense, I'm not speaking to you like I spoke to my congregation yesterday. I think there's something distinct. And I build that on what I see God doing in a distinctive way with people in scripture.
McDonald, whether you agree with him or not — but he cites an interesting passage, Numbers 16. And maybe it would be good to turn to Numbers 16 for a moment. I hadn't thought about it before, but it's interesting.
Numbers 16, someone read the first few verses if you would.
Audience Member: Now [inaudible], the son of [inaudible], the son of [inaudible] with the [inaudible], the sons of Elia and all the sons of [inaudible]. And they rose up before Moses together in the sons of Israel, 250 [phonetic] meters of the congregation chosen in the assembly [inaudible].
They assembled together against Moses and Aaron and said to them, "You've gone far enough for all the congregation [inaudible], every one of them. And the Lord is in their midst. So why do you exalt yourself above the assembly of the Lord?"
Okay. You see where McDonald might be coming from here. For example, if you build too much of a case for, "You know, we're all ministers. We're all in this together. There are no distinctions here," you may be setting yourself up for maybe a moment like this as a leader in a ministry when someone might say "Well, building on the theology you've just built here, then what makes you any different than any of us?
So why should we hear you when we might hear from someone else?" Now you might say "Well, okay that's fair. That's okay." But you also might say "You know, but the church requires leadership, needs leadership, needs a shepherd.
It would seem that this is what God has called me to." And McDonald goes on to make the point here that eventually those who raised this question got swallowed up by an earthquake. So do with that what you want. But you're going to have to think this piece of your theology through.
I would just say that again, in terms of requirements for ministry, there has to be a definite conversion. But I would also argue that there has to be a calling, calling that could be dramatic as I mentioned few weeks ago. Or it can be gradual over time, necessitated by the demands of ministry and the place of ministry — yeah, Heather.
Audience Member: [inaudible]
I suppose it would be a lot like gifts. I think if you are beginning to see God build a passion in you that you can't explain any other way, like I think I may have shared when I came to seminary and I told everyone before I came the one thing I'd never be in my life is a pastor.
How did that happen? Something God began to do in my life that I can only explain as a God thing. So I think you look at what your passions are and you begin to look really hard at what you begin to sense God has designed you for, what he's enabled and gifted you to do.
I think those would be a couple of indicators. And then I think, certainly, another indicator is if you begin to sense people that love you really well and know you really well are saying "You know, I can see God doing something, calling you to something."
How does a person know they're called? For example, I have gone overseas many times in my life. And one of my goals is to go overseas every year, whether it's to India or Beirut in particular or maybe some other place.
And I love teaching overseas. But if somebody ever said to me, "Do you have that call in your life to do that? I mean, could you see yourself as a missionary?" And I'd say no. I've never had any sense of that. I mean I love it.
I love what I do there, but I have no compulsion, no desire. I do have a compulsion to pastor church, so much so that when I came back here to teach a seminary I couldn't stay away from it. How do I explain that?
So Heather I think that you just have to look at what compels you, what when you're doing it you say I'd rather not do anything else? — Yeah, JR.
Audience Member: One of the aspects of [inaudible].
Yeah. I think the important thing for us to keep in mind is it's not a cookie cutter thing. When you hear someone give their testimony of their call, our tendency is to sometimes go "Well, that didn't happen to me."
But then it shouldn't have necessarily happened to you. Your call will have its own story. Now I would say this. It's also fair — and I think we should all be open to this — that when we say go to seminary, part of seminary — and I think it was for a number of my peers.
I assume it's the same with you. It's a sorting out time. You’re asking yourself the question: "So is God calling me into this ministry?" Whatever that is — leading a church, going overseas. And seminary, at times, is kind of a shaking out ground where you say "You know, I discovered that I'm not called into ministry" — not that seminary then turns out to be a wasted experience.
My best friend, one of my closest friends I should say, is my financial planner. He is smart. He understands finance like no one I know. He graduated from Cornell at the top of his class in economics. He also is one of the smartest graduates that ever graduated from Western.
But he's not leading a church. He came to realize "You know, this is not me." In a certain sense, he's not called into ministry. But on the other side of the coin, he has been powerfully used by God in what he's doing as a financial planner.
It takes lots of turns. Justin, you were going to say something.
Audience Member: In terms of [inaudible], it seems like the main difference between the two lines there [inaudible]would be one of the [phonetic] clipping. Is that your understanding of the difference in the God-given [inaudible]?
Audience Member: ...Jesus gets those people in particular to the church not because [inaudible] specific purpose.
Correct. A lot of what I read today is sort of arguing for the fact that these are ongoing, whereas in my training we took pretty much the position that these each had their day. Apostle was more of the foundational stones, going back to Ephesians 1 and 2.
And they served their purpose. And prophets —
Audience Member: [inaudible]
Certainly by the end of the first century, and the prophets having served their purpose and their function. But now with the completion of the word of God, that particular role is no longer valid. I'm not saying that's my position.
I'm saying that I was pretty steep in that kind of training. But it's interesting. A lot of what you read today in ministry would make the argument that those roles are ongoing. So it's causing me to rethink that through. I think there is an apostolic dimension of ministry.
In fact I wrote an article for Trinity Journal a few years ago entitled "The Recovery of the Prophetic Role for the Preacher." My argument there is that preachers have gone away from their prophetic role.
That goes back to the Old Testament. So I'm rather inconsistent. And I'm not sure I've really though it through enough. What I have come to a pretty settled conviction about — pretty settled, do you like that? — is that I believe there is a distinction of roles.
There is a called role of leadership in the church, whatever form that takes. That is distinctive from all of us called into ministry. I do resonate with McDonald when he says "If we carry this too far here, then we lose that distinction and almost lose then our legitimacy of leading the church."
And I do find it somewhat fascinating. Numbers 16 seems to be kind of people rising up and sort of saying "Well, what makes you any different than us?" When in reality God in effect, in that story, said "He is distinct. And you challenging it will have a price tag."
Okay, now think about that. Is that fair to make — it's a pretty big leap over to say the minister today, whether it's pastor or whatever role leading the church — is it fair to argue as strongly today?
McDonald would seem to make that argument — So, Scott.
Audience Member: [inaudible] his argument is that there is no letter that Paul wrote that addressed specifically church leaders. They're all too general [inaudible] you have Paul address [inaudible] an Acts.
Then you have Hebrews 13 [inaudible].
Audience Member: It seems to me that there is a distinction [inaudible] separates [inaudible] from the people but [inaudible]within the people.
Yeah, but maybe part of the argument for that is these were formative communities who didn't really have too much established in terms of leadership yet. And maybe part of the reason Paul didn't is because he was giving birth to these and moving on.
So maybe there were no point people. Now Colossians — it's interesting. He, at the very end, says "And say to [phonetic] Archippus, take heed to the ministry God's called you to." Why does he single out — and some would say Archippus was the leader.
But maybe he wasn't, he wasn't living up to his calling. I don't know. I don't know if I'd build too much of an argument on the fact Paul's not addressing leaders, because of where these churches were. I think the thing we can all agree on is that there's clearly leaders.
And are they called? Based on what God has done all through scripture, I think there is a recognized calling on them. And those who are called — like I'm assuming most of you have a sense of that. Did I have a profound sense of that when I went to seminary? — Not really.
I couldn't identify with some of my peers who gave this glowing testimony of how — but by the time I graduated from seminary, it was pretty darn clear to me that this is what God had called me to do. That may be your testimony.
I think it's really interesting to talk about these things in this day and age though, because it seems like a lot of things are up for grab, whether you talk about context for ministry or role of calling.
These things are much more up for grabs than they were in my day, which only underscores to me why it's so critical to think through your theology. Because I think, in the next generation, it's going to be even more up for grabs, a lot of these things, than they are today.
And I think those who win the argument tomorrow are going to be the ones who think through their theology. On that note, let's take a 10-minute break.