Lecture 7: Mission of Ministry (part 2)
Course: Theology of Ministry
Lecture: Mission of Ministry (part 2)
Okay, let’s go back to our notes then. I wanna finish up a little bit of what I talked about last time, and then I wanna talk about the Trinitarian center of ministry. We started, by talking about why build theological foundations. And I mentioned it’s because these theological foundations form the lines and shape the angles of ministry. If we don’t have our theology right we can get ministry all messed up. Whatever ministry we do.
And let me give an example, in our church right now I think I’ve been more impressed, more than ever, over the last few years, with a grace-centered ministry. I just find people hunger so much for grace today. When we use phrases like, you know, we wanna be a place where failure connects with grace. It resonates. And I think part of it, because particularly in Baptist circles, we’ve not necessarily been known so much for grace. We’ve actually been very – quite graceless. But your theology, you need to make sure you have intact because you know as pendulum’s tend to swing you can – one could find themselves going too far over here, and say: okay so where’s the place for repentance and justice and holiness.
You know theology’s what keeps ya centered. Forms the lines, shapes the angles. It’s, as I mentioned last time secondly, what guided the early ministry of the church. I took ya through the fact that many of the early theologians were bishops, and bishops were theologians. And let’s remind ourselves of the fact that it’s not because – well they were just – they just loved theology more then maybe ministers do today. They were forced to. They were forced to because the church was in its infancy.
And so there were all kind of heresies afoot that were, you know, that’s why you have all these early church councils, in Nicaea and other places around there. Just because, there were just horrific heresies and you can see the devil behind all of this. Here’s the church struggling, still small, theologians needed to kind of rise to the surface and lead the church. And these largely were the pastors of the day.
When you go back and you study that period of time, if some of these great leaders did not come to the fore like we’re gonna read – Gregory and some of the others. Cristisum [phonetic] and others. Who knows what would’ve happened. I mean, i-it had to obviously be a very God-thing, that these men stood up. Because Christology, Trinitarianism, all kinds of things would’ve gotten really screwed up, because as you know when you go back, you just read some of the voices that were tryin’ to-to get the church off-center. So they had to, they faced these huge debates. They had no choice but to be theologians.
But here’s the key. The key is they never separated it from their ministry. At least in that time period. The two went together. They sought to unfold the mystery of God. At the same time they were seeking to bring people to a deeper level of spiritual growth. So it wasn’t one or the other, it was both/and. But this began to change, and there were different influences, and I think I mentioned last time that one of them was… what?:
Well, before the renaissance. There was more of the monastic movement of those who began to, withdraw from the practice. Who were still theologians, so to speak, but began to desire to get away. And maybe in part what drove some of that – I don’t know I’m not a great historian on this and don’t wanna pretend to be…but I suspect some of it was that marriage – unfortunate marriage of church and state. And in that marriage of church and state whaddya think began to happen?
Audience Member: Compromise.
Yeah, just the tendency of compromise. You’re dealing with power now. And not o-only maybe your own temptations to power but, the temptations of others around you. And I think guys like Cristisum [phonetic] and others who, I mean they ran, they literally ran from the parish, so to speak. They ran for the mountains. Because they ran from-from being in a situation where ya had maybe a king or a queen or, important people and all the pressures that came with, ya know, don’t say things that are gonna, ya know, if you say things that are gonna questions my immoral lifestyle I-I will do great damage to you.
And-and so y-ya know some began to say: “I-I don’t want any of this.” So there began to be a-a bit of a break between theology and practice. By, in part, a monastic movement. That then led to, ya know, down the road a number of centuries we have the renaissance, and we have the enlightenment. Where, now with man beginning to vault reason as supreme, there began to be again, this division, and now truth was located in the academy. And truth began to be relegated into facts and ideas. And search for truth became more of a cognitive enterprise. Limited demands reason empirical evidence. Truth began to become more about knowing truth then loving truth. And it wasn’t so much about being transformed by truth anymore.
Someone put it this way: “Theology worked to be considered intellectually accessible on modern terms of rationality.” I’ll say that again: theology worked to be considered intellectually accessible on modern terms of rationality. So you had those, maybe prone in their theology to wanna be accepted more in the academy and to…accommodate to a rational-centered approach to things, and this gap between theology and ministry began to widen. The line between academic theology and practical theology wa-began to be drawn by the academic faculties in Europe, which then was imported to Divinity Schools in Am-in America.
And as I mentioned this bridge connecting practical theology to pure theology began to be constructive for one-way traffic, and practical theologians didn’t have the union cards and were not admitted across the bridge. And a divorce of sorts occurred. Theology was shoved to the margins. And ministry returned the favor. By shoving theology to the margins. And we see, I think again…do you see that? If it-is it just me or do you see that a bit today? Where you see evidences of this. Where you can be-sometimes be in a-a conference of practitioners who don’t give much weight to theology. And in a sense what is that? Is it-it is a bit of a reaction. It is sort of okay well…so, you can separate from us we can separate from you. Methodology separated from its m-theological home, and it began to look for shelter in-in a places that invited it. More receptive homes such as psychology and business.
And that’s led again to people like Eugene Peterson you see, and others who have stood up as- I may have mentioned in written books like “Workin the Angles” in which they say – in which he says in his introduction: “Ministers are leavin’ the ministry in droves.” Not that their names are no longer on the door posts. They still are. It’s just that they departed from the ministry and they’ve become something else. What is it that they’ve become? Well he says they’ve-ministers have become… they’ve become therapists. Not there is anything wrong with therapy, it’s just that that’s not the first calling. At least in the pastoral side of things. Or they’ve become CEO’s. And missed what they were called to be.
This is the result. Without a home where theology and ministry co-habit and complement and build off one another, you have some unfortunate things that happen. On the ministry side, ya have ministry that’s concerned largely with again, methods, and techniques, and strategies. And I see that a lot. And I see it sometimes with my peers. That-the questions that we largely talk about in ministry are not about – not so much about theology, it’s about the next program or the latest strategy or the latest techniques.
Without the influence of sound theology we can become, as Peterson puts it: “Reduced to technicians. Or therapists.” Or maybe perhaps a more, something that seems to be a more popular metaphor today is artists. Not that there’s anything wrong with artists. Again, there’s nothing wrong with any of these terms. It’s only when they begin to take center stage in ministry.
On the theology side theology gets reduced to academics. And less oriented towards ministry. And when that happens then theology becomes irrelevant. An example of that – at least for me – as largely a pastor, is when I go to like, ETS conferences. And I find myself looking hard to find any pre-presentation that I can take to my church, that anyone in my church would say “oh that sounds interesting”. We’re saying that it’s critical that they come back together. That somehow th-theese two, that once kind of had a nice marriage and then got separated and almost seemed to have gotten a divorce, kinda need to make up. Theology-ministry need to come back because they realize they can’t live, without each other. They really can’t. Theology can’t live without ministry.
And ministry can’t live without theology. Y’all-ya’ll agree with that dontcha? Sometimes when I go to like a-a pastor’s convention, I wanna stand up and say: “Hey, what do ya-no you can’t live without theology. You need theology.” And sometimes when I’m at ETS meetings I wanna say: “Hey, come on. Make room. Bring your wife back.” So it’s critical they come together because ministry only becomes effective when we allow God’s truth to penetrate hearts and minds.
And it’s because we’re also dealing with some huge issues…today. We’re re-thinking mission, we’re talkin’ about reforming culture. We are in this whole, season of change. And we better have our theology down. So, when we look at influential voices today, for example like the Mclarens or the Driscolls or the Hybels, at least in church ministry, or other voices in your particular areas of ministry. We better know how to critique them, before we just buy everything they say. So we need to come back to where we were. The bridge needs to allow for two-way traffic. And the breach has gotta be repaired, that’s another way to put it. What I’m saying is that ministers need to become theologians again, and theologians need to become ministers.
The last thing on your notes, “why do we ne-need to do all of this” is because the theology of ministry is what our people need from us. It’s not just what we need for ourselves, it’s what our people need. Your people need whoever you minister to, whatever…kind of ministry you’re in. They need you to be a minister/theologian. They need that from you. They don’t just want your theology. But on the other side of the coin they just don’t want your care. They-They’ve gotta have both.
People I minister to need to know I care for them, but they also need to-to know that I can answer questions like, “Is God good?” You know: “Why do these things happen in my life. Where am I going? Where is the universe going?” I mean, these are fundamental issues I better have some answers. But they just don’t wanna hear it from a cold theologian either. So. Okay. So this is all largely introduction, but I’m- you hear what I’m arguing for. Theology of ministry. That we bring these two together. Questions? Yeah?
Audience Member: It seems that in some ways too, it’s not just theology and ministry but it’s the content that encourages. I-I heard a lot of talk about ya know, is this church based or is this academic based, or inside or outside of the church. And it seems that’s maybe part of the [inaudible] too.
We set these-
Audience Member: -these arbitrary[crosstalk] locations where this happens at.
Yeah, right. Yeah. Yeah. I think I may have mentioned that I would see that a lot when I first started in church ministry and was an-an adjunct here, and would hear people disparage one another on both sides. And that’s what has to change. And I think in some respects, in some ways I see in some areas it is changing and it’s good. I don’t mean to sound all negative here. I see some theologians who are very practical orie-in orientation and I see some out there in ministry who are very theological in orientation, and they’re a breath of fresh air.
Okay, we’re gonna shift now and talk about this…Trinitarian center. So what I wanna try to do here is web theology and ministry here, by first of all talking about God. And the first statement I wanna make here is that ministry first of all concerns itself with the practice of God. If we’re gonna understand a theology of ministry, if we’re gonna get our bearings for doing ministry, then, the natural place to start is with God, right? And we ask our self the question: Who God is, what does God do, what has God done, how does that inform me about ministry?
That should at least be one of our fundamental questions, every time we do ministry. Is…this…what Jesus did? Is this…who Jesus is? Is this how the Holy Spirit works? If we find ourselves departing, that probably is a clue right then and there we better stop what we’re doin’ right? So, let’s think for a moment. Just when we think about God and ministry, who God is, what God does, how that informs ministry. Give me some things about God that begin to at least, define your ministry. Because God is…or because God does…therefore:
Audience Member: God is relational.
Yeah. So, because of who God is, it doesn’t give us any real room to be a non-relational minister right? There’s just no place that one can justify that. Though some of us do. What else? Because of who God is, or what God does, this informs me about my ministry…I must relational…what else? [silence] Yeah.
Audience Member: God is forgiving.
Audience Member: So that grace to abound.
Yeah. So, not only for me as a-personally, but for the ministry that I have a role in. I must try to build a very reconciling kind of atmosphere. A place where forgiveness is real. And yet, paradoxically, that’s one of the things churches are not known for. Churches can ironically be some of the most unforgiving, places in the world. Which makes absolutely no sense when we think about who God is.
Audience Member: Serving.
Yeah. Jesus comes, as the one who did not come to be served but to serve. Which again, tells us a lot of what our orientation is to be. Seminary, to a large extent, is servant training. Is a s-servant training institution, if we think about our theology. And yet again, sometimes if we’re not careful we can go out there seeking to get, the position in ministry so people can follow us, serve us. That’s not what ministry is.
I think it was Derek Tidball – I’ll refer to him now and then. D-e-r-e-k Tidball. I don’t know if—I think he might be in some of the books I gave you. But he is a pastoral theolo-theologian in England. Says: “Ministry is only legitimate to the extent that it is derived from God.” Ministry is only legitimate to the extent that it is derived from God. God is the starting point. Unless ministry begins here it will spin off, and become controlled by someone or something else.
When we look at scripture we discover that God’s ministry is Trinitarian. That is, there is Father, there is Son, there is Spirit. And all ministry must be grounded in this…Anderson puts it this way, in this, “Intra-Trinitarian ministry”. That is, the Father leading us. Christ with us. The spirit working within us. Or, I’m gonna break it down this way. The Father as the origination of ministry, Jesus as the model of ministry, and the spirit as the power for ministry. So we’re gonna look at this model being God, that then helps define ministry for us. And we’re gonna look I’m-what I wanna do is break it down at looking at the trinity from the three angles, and see what they each teach us.
So let’s start with Father…y’all with me so far? See where we’re goin’— wh-what we’re tryin’ to do here? Father is origination of ministry. Ministry begins with understanding the ministry of the Father. And when we survey the ministry of the father, here are several things at least, we begin to discover. He is, you ready, this is a profound thought, ready? Okay. He is Father. Who demonstrates his fatherhood not with sentimental, or indulgent love. But he demonstrates it with a purposeful love. A purposeful love that sometimes disciplines those who go astray. Deuteronomy 28.
When you look at the ministry of Father in scripture, you also fi-discover that he is a-a essentially shepherd. When Jacob reflected on God, in Genesis 48. It’s one of the first descriptions of God’s ministry in scripture. He refers to him as shepherd. Genesis 48:15. Which is how the Psalmists describe the ministry of God. And God throughout, especially the Old Testament, is described as the one who leads, who pastures, who carries, who heals. I love Moses who describes God this way at times in the wilderness, with the people, as the one who “carried them through”.
God is also referred to as Savior, who saves his people. Isaiah12, verse 2: “Surely God is my salvation.” He saves people through the Exodus. Where am I goin’ with all of this? Well, to a certain extent, if ministry originates in God and we start here with Father, then what does that say to us? That says that there is a father role to our ministry as well. Now you might say well that seems kinda odd. I mean am I really a-a father? I mean this isn’t a catholic seminary is it, are we training to go out and be called Father? I’ve had some call me that. That – can tell they have a catholic background. I have to say: “no, no, wait a minute I’m not father.” But in a certain sense, I am, and you are. It’s part of what we sign up for.
Did Paul ever liken himself to a father? In fact he did. He referred to himself to the Thessalonians. Chapter two. As a father. Implying patience. Implying – yes for those of us who are fathers and understand this – implies pain. Implies gentleness. Long suffering. A joy. All kinds of things.
In 2 Corinthians 11, and I never saw it until I read it at the end of Purvis. Maybe if you’ve had a sneak towards the very back, he gives I thi-an appendix and talks about this, and it’s a great thought. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul portrays himself as father. Maybe in a way you haven’t thought of. I hadn’t thought of this. Notice if you ta-take your Bibles and turn to 2 Corinthians 11. 2 Corinthians 11:1: “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness, but indeed you are bearing with me for I am jealous for you with a Godly jealousy, for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ-” catch these words “-that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” What is Paul liken himself to, as a minister?
Audience Member: Paul…[inaudible]
Yeah. Isn’t that an incredible thought? Paul likens himself to a father, walking down the aisle to present the bride to her husband. And Paul likens himself therefore, I take it, in the same way as one who will present those he ministered to, to the groom in heaven. That’s a scary thought isn’t it? Just an amazing thought. I have a daughter. One day, I hope I can walk down an aisle with her, and I hope I can in affect say: “I poured myself into her. I didn’t – by God’s grace my best to shape her, mold her, exhort her, encourage her to stay pure. And here she is. And I’m presentin’ her to you.” And Paul says that’s what he – a role he likens himself to as minister, is in affect saying: here’s this Corinthian church. And well, there’s parts of the book of, you know, Corinthians that you can almost hear Paul say, “Here! Have her!”
“Phew, I’m done with her.” You know. But I don’t think that’s the kind of father he’s talkin’ about here. I think he’s saying “oh if I can just bring her, to the groom, at the marriage.” Well, think about that for you and your ministry. I mean, think about that for a moment. What does that mean? What are the implications? Tell me, what are the implications of that? Mark, what’s the—what are the implications?
Mark: I think I’d really get to know the folks that are under my care. I think there’s a verse in Hebrews, I don’t remember what chapter, I think it’s thirteen. And it refers to those that are overseeing you, I think that [crosstalk] are responsible to give an account [crosstalk] [inaudible] a little more seriously.
Yeah. Hebrews 13:17. Yeah. I hope you guys aren’t missing this. I mean just think about the implications. It scares me.
Audience Member: In Purvis’ book. [crosstalk] Two of the…the first two people that he writes about I believe, fled once they were ordained. Just because of the seriousness of the task of caring for so [inaudible].
Yeah. It’s the same thing. Yeah.
Brian: [inaudible] not being willing to give up on those we’re trying to nurture. I think if you look at someone in a church setting versus in their home setting and if they’re not home they’re gonna keep working with that child.
You know, that’s a good point Brian, and you know it says something in this whole father picture…how many are fathers here? Okay, a-a good chunk of you are. Here’s something I’ve learned about being a father. First of all, I discovered a whole dimension of my heart I never knew. It’s a whole different kind of love. I continue to be amazed how I can one moment want to kill…
…almost. Someone, that I’m parenting, and find myself like 30minutes later restless in bed until I go up and tell that person I love them. I mean, I can get angry if someone cuts me off in the freeway, hope I never see them again. But then, I can have someone that I just wanna kill and yet there’s something about a father’s love that just, cries out and wants to love and be loved. It’s just a profound experience.
In a sense, that’s part of this whole thing. When we see what ministry is, what is the theology of ministry, we start with who God is. God is Father, which has implications for us. We are Father too. And then has profound implications for how serious we take ministry and what we do, and how we love our people. You know sometimes, we don’t love our people like a father. We go well, ya know if you’re gonna treat me this way then fine. I mean, why is it pastors, for example, leave average, every two and a half years. I bet a big part of it is cuz they never got their theology right that they’re called to be Father. And that means, ya are gonna get people mad at you. I mean sometimes I’ll say to my son, “why are you treating me like this?” and he’ll go “but Dad, I’m 18 I’m supposed to treat you this way.”
There’s a certain amount of truth to that. I mean, sometimes you’ll say, “Why”, to your church, “are you treating me like this?” Not there there’s an answer like that I think. But it’s just that you have to roll with it, you have to love through it all. And a lot of us aren’t willing to love through it. We just say, “Okay, fine. The heck with you guys. I’ll find somebody that wants to love me.” And the problem with that is, they always love ya for the first few hours. And then, it happens.
There’s also a shepherd role here that we saw with God, that informs us. That informs us again that a-an essential part of our role as minister is shepherd. Whatever that means. We do know some of the things that that refers to. Feeding. Drawing people to God. Strengthening the weak. And we see it again in such passages as 1 Peter 5:2, Acts 20:28. Where Paul, Peter, exhorting those who are ministers to shepherd. Shepherd people. And I come back to Tidball who says, “the image of the shepherd is the underlying paradigm of ministry.” The image of the shepherd is the underlying paradigm of ministry. This single image contains within it references to authority, to tender care, to specific task, to courage, to sacrifice.
Though when we think of God – here’s the last thing and then we’ll take a break here for a moment – when we think of God in this saving role, in a certain sense that’s part of ours, at least we’ve been given this ministry of reconciliation. Helping people cross the gap from their own Egypt to Israel, from alienation to reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18. So that means that a central part of a minister’s task is to minister grace.
Now it’s not our ministry to achieve reconciliation. We’re not responsible for someone else’s piety, this is God’s responsibility. We can only do so much. Sometimes we try to do-to do more then we’re called to do and that can lead to great fatigue. But what I wanna just close with, is saying that nonetheless we do have this ministry of being like God. God s-serves as an essential model for us, and our ministry is derived from His ministry. And that’s confirmed by Jesus, who also came to reflect the Father’s ministry, and he serves as a model for us. John 14:31, “I do as the Father commanded me.” And now catch what I’m gonna say here. Jesus did not come to introduce his ministry. You with me? Jesus did not come to introduce his ministry. He came to do what?
He came to carry out, the will, of the Father. You see where I’m going here? We’re not graduating from seminary to go out and introduce our ministry. Looking at God as the model here, as the working model, we’re not here to introduce our ministry. Sometimes someone says to us, “Well tell-tell me about your ministry.” Probably in a more-to be more theologically precise, our answer should be, “Well lemme tell you about His ministry. That he has called me to do.”
So Jesus when he said, “I do as the Father commanded me” in John 17 at the end, ya know in a sense, ‘Okay, I’ve carried out what you’ve called me to do. This is all about God’s ministry.’ And we just need to remember, this is about God’s ministry. It’s about His ministry not our ministry. And so Jesus came not to the world with the ministry based upon a response to human need. But with the ministry based upon obedience to the Father. In other words, here’s again where you can see applicationally how this fits. He-the needs of the world did not set the agenda for Jesus. Ya thinkin’? Didja catch that last point? The needs of the world…what did I say?
Audience: Did not set the agenda...[crosstalk] [inaudible]
Did not set the agenda for Jesus. What set the agenda? Who set the agenda? Father set the agenda. Jesus comes to carry out the agenda of the Father. Who sets the agenda for you, as a minister? The people? See? We think a lot of times that we have to keep following the agenda of the people, and a theology of ministry helps you realize, “No wait. No, you don’t set the agenda. God sets the agenda.”
Classic illustration: Mark chapter one, big healing service in Peter’s home. Everybody comes out, everybody’s all excited. Jesus is doing some wonderful healing. Gets late in the night, everybody goes to bed, they wake up in the morning and what? Where-where’s Jesus? He’s supposed to be here. And they go on a search-send out a search party. And they go lookin’ and where do they find ‘im?
He’s out in-in the wilderness praying. So, they kinda go “hey ‘scuse me. Nice. I’m glad you’re havin’ this little devotional time with…the Father. That’s good, that’s all good, can ya get back home? We’ve got a-there’s still a line of people that’ve been waiting for you.” And Jesus says the most amazing thing. What’d he say? “I-I’m sorry, time got away from me. Okay let’s go let’s get back.” Is that what he said?
Let’s go on to other villages. Because, I came for this purpose: to carry out the will of the Father, who did not call me to be a faith healer. Father set the agenda. Father sets the agenda for us. Our ministry is an extension of His ministry. Our ministry is what he has called us to do. That helps us, doesn’t it? Just that little bit of theology of ministry; I think can begin to liberate some of you here. If not liberate you, at least protect you from what you might be oriented to do if you’re not careful. And that is to let your ministry become hijacked by others with their agenda.