Saturday, October 20, 2012
Friday, October 19, 2012
The Ministry Of The Many
One sees that Paul approached the ministry at a supremely personal level. Entrusted with the Gospel by God, he related to others with integrity and genuine concern. He took great pains to guard against any suggestion that he was out to take advantage of his neighbors. And Paul worked small and quiet and face to face. He refused to take center stage under a spotlight, preferring to position himself in the wings alongside those he came to serve. You would not have seen Paul’s name displayed prominently in lights when he came to town — instead you would have had to search among the working class folks where he plied his trade quietly, with a kindness and friendliness that was contagious. As he says in verse 12, his focus was not on addressing crowds but on effectively encouraging “each one” around him as a father would his children.And flowing from this "style" of ministry is the fact that since ministry is not about "the man" is is about the men and women. Meaning Paul ministered to others so that they in turn could minister - that's what forming a community is all about.
common today. It is “power” religion, with an emphasis on the charisma of its leaders and their fine credentials, claims of spiritual “vision,” sensational gifts and otherworldly experiences, eloquent speech and striking presentation style, and of course, measurable and impressive “results.”
Contrast that with a man, called of God, who works with his hands, loves his neighbors, shares Christ with them, and forms them into a community that gathers around the Gospel, and you will see the difference between much American religion and Jesus-shaped apostolic ministry.
And with that comes the call to maturity. What is maturity after all? It is moving from dependency to independency, or for the Christian it is moving from dependency on he or she that introduces us to Christ to direct dependency on Christ. Part of being independent (or in this case directly dependent on Christ)is replicating that which was given to us.
A ministry spotlight tends to keep people dependent on whoever is in the spotlight, but more it hogs resources from those who seek to minister in other manners.
Paul was building The church, not HIS church. That meant he had to make mature and passionate ministers so that things would continue to spread - without his physical presence.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
It's Not About "Branding"
Let’s play a word association game. When I use the word “evangelism” what comes to mind?What utter hogwash! Jesus did not "model a brand." Jesus was a person.
-A “Repent” sign?
-A pointed index finger (resulting in a flipped up middle finger)?
Too often, too many of us have negative views of the word evangelism. Sadly, the 2,000 year old practice of evangelism has 2,000 years worth of baggage that comes with it (i.e. the inquisition, burning heretics at the stake, Jim Jones, etc.) In the early church the baggage was merely carry-on. But today, there is so much baggage associated with evangelism that we are forced to check it and tempted to chuck it.
But we shouldn’t. Jesus himself modeled the right brand of evangelism which was equal parts awkward and awesome, drenched both in love and boldness. He commissioned his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone.
We don't "model" or "brand" anything if we are genuine Christians - we are transformed by the Holy Spirit. Talk about modelling and branding is a way of holding things at arms lengths - "it's not us, it's the brand." That makes Evangelicalism sound like something you can put on and take off like a set of clothing.
Certainly that is not Christianity. Christianity attacks us at the core of our being, it is not an image nor a viewpoint, it's not even a "way of life." It's an invasion and subsequent occupation - transforming us into something very different.
If we show "the wrong brand" it is becasue we resist our occupier. The problem is not the brand, its the rebellion.
Art from Proverbs
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The scary trend, however, is the growing worship of the art of worship. The worship leader/pastor/director/producer has become a rock star. The need for ever-improving technology (“2K Projectors? Yes!!!”) dominates the church budget. The demand for professional musicianship squeezes out the possibility of homegrown talent. On Monday mornings we talk more about the sound quality, the experience, the arrangement than about the jaw dropping recognition of the awesome power of an omniscient God. We are in danger of worshipping the creation more than the creator.I believe this to be true of the "worship wars" generally. When you are fighting about the "how's" of worship instead of the object of worship, your priorities are int he wrong place.
But then, of course, comes the inevitable charge of one form or the other being "genuine" worship. And then comes the inevitable response, "For me...." As soon as the "me" word is used, the debate is forfeited. You see, how we worship is not a function of the worshiper, but of the object of worship.
Sadly, the Bible provides no direct command on the how's of worship. Here is where tradition is informative. No simply becasue it is tradition, but because tradition had thousands of years of thought and pray and discussion built into it about all these issues.
Can tradition be changed? Of course it can and it should be from time-to-time, but that change must occur in the context of all that has gone into the development of the tradition. Before we can reject or change tradition, we must learn and understand it.
Failure to do so is all about the "me," which means it is about the worshiper and not the object of the worship.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
What Is Ministry?
Pastors need to be paid, but the instant they work for their salaries is the instant the church is lost.
I’m not advocating the idea that every pastor should take a vow of poverty. I suppose the point I’m making is that statistics prove that pastors in our culture tend to make more money than the average working family in the communities they serve. My fear is that pastors making a lot of money produces the idea that pastors should expect to make a lot of money! How long will it be before congregations, in these difficult economic times, begin to stand up and take notice that the pastors called to wash their congregation member’s feet are getting their own pedicured on a regular basis, while mama’s toes back at home are startin’ to look a mess?
I’ll admit, that was probably a little mean. I’ll give the podium to G.K Chesterton for a moment:
“He that serves God for money will serve the devil for a better wage.”
To focus this rant a bit, I would say that the danger in paying pastors a high salary is that they will not only fall in love with money, but become slaves to those who give the most, in terms of dollars. If you have a pastor who tells you, “I don’t know who gives what amount in this church. I don’t want to know.”, then friend, your pastor is telling you a story. And I use the phrase “telling you a story” not meaning to indicate that he is relaying details of an incident, but instead in the Southern sense of the phrase. In the intended context, “telling you a story” means he is flat-out lying. Having been a pastor for years, and served with every personality type of pastor you can imagine, in tiny churches and in a mega church, I can tell you, they know who the big givers are. They may not know how big, but they know who to call when the church van breaks down, or the church can’t make this month’s mortgage payment.
Much of the problem here is US corporate and employment law. There needs to be contracts, terms of service, all sorts of things that make the relationship be something it is not. We minister and serve because God demands it of us - Some part time, some full time, some paid, some volunteer. All ministry and service brings compensation - some financial, some emotional, some spiritual, some psychological.
What there is not is a link. The instant a certain activity must, through contract or other mechanism, result in a specific defined compensation, the compensation now no longer is what God grants us in His boon and is instead some earthly obligation. What was ministry is now simply employment.
We are and must be utterly dependent on God. Law may mandate employment contracts for staff, but that staff must be mature enough to ignore that fact and rely on God. All compensation is a gift.
Monday, October 15, 2012
It wasn’t until I went to college, where I was given a stronger exposure to the ways that Catholics and Orthodox Christians appropriate images in worship, that I could tease out the fairly polemic view that my first church offered.Couple of take-aways here. Images can be "read." That is to say they are not merely "pretty" - they tell a story and the that can do so effectively and in some cases very efficiently. There was a Star Trek episode about this idea:
I learned the difference between “worship” and “veneration” and realized that these other traditions understand images as tools for, not objects of, worship - that they invite the viewer into the Biblical narrative in a way that arrests both mind and heart and that brings the viewer to a richer, fuller encounter with that narrative. I visited Greece, where monasteries that were well over 1,000 years old lined the walls with icons, the smoky incense cloaking the ancient, gilded paint. I was brought to view images as windows of mystery that deepened and encouraged my faith.
And it helped me to encounter the many images that mark my life in the Reformed church. Protestants carry so many images, too, though they might not look as vibrant as the images I have encountered in other traditions.
There’s the image of bread and cup; the image of the baptismal font; the image of rainbow, of the cross, of a dove. When I made my profession of faith, I was given a bronze cross with images of hands carved around the cross’s edges, each holding a loaf of bread.
The senior staff discusses their latest mission; to make contact with the Tamarian race who have been transmitting signals toward Federation space for weeks. The Enterprise makes contact with a Tamarian ship in orbit around the planet El-Adrel. Though the universal translator can translate their words, the Tamarians only communicate through metaphor which baffles the Enterprise crew. Likewise, the Tamarians cannot understand Picard's straightforward use of languageBeing the geek that I am the first question that crossed my mind was, "If the language is metaphor, how are the underlying stories transmitted initially?" My presumption is through image. If you read an image (a comic without words, thought balloons or narration - the Japanese are really good at them and they are fun to read) then is it any different from reading scripture?
They deduce that the Tamarian language is entirely based on metaphors from Tamarian folklore. They learn that Darmok was a hunter and Tanagra is an island, but nothing else. Without knowing the stories behind the metaphors, the Tamarian language remains indecipherable.
The second thing to take away is that reading an image is evocative in a way that reading words can never be. When we read words we must engage thought processes that can crowd out emotion and spirit. For get the image for a minute and think of the most beautiful thing you ever saw - a mountain top, the Grand Canyon, whatever it may be. It evoked more in you than mere thought. An image CAN do that and in doing so open us to things that words cannot.
One of the problems we have is that images these days are so profane. They do not seek to touch us in these places words cannot reach. They seek either commercial success or to express what the artist thinks, rather than touch the "reader."
Better images make better people.