Archives for: October 2008

Pastors and teachers

John Chandler writes:

I love this idea, but I must admit it is still threatening to me as well. What does it mean for me to pastor a community of people that are so engaged outside of the church that it can’t be measured? How can we shape a community that celebrates well the stories of what is happening outside of our structured times together?

Jesus and Paul seemed to foster engaged communities just fine and they didn't even have cell phones. If your definition of "pastor" doesn't coincide with what Jesus, the shepherd did with his sheep then I urge you to consider whether you've allowed your culture to dictate that role more than your ultimate role model has.

In short, we've allowed our pastors to become pale imitations of CEO's, setting "vision" for churches, managing professional Christian staffs, maximizing stakeholder value, and running Robert's Rules of Order into the ground. Jesus didn't have a vision other than "get back in the Kingdom, you stupid lost sheep." He had a "professional staff" of fishermen and tax-collectors, not MFC's and MBA's. He promoted and modeled sacrifice. And as far as I can tell, he never ran a business meeting.

You know, Ephesians 4 does mention some gifted church roles other than pastor: apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher. How many churches do you know of that have an apostle or prophet on staff? I mean in their title. Doesn't that sound kooky and anachronistic? "Mornin, Apostle Frank!" "How are you, Evangelist Dorothy?" But I've been in plenty of churches where "Pastor Mike" was a perfectly normal appellation, and even some where you could hear people say things like, "oh, didn't Pastor give a great sermon today?" Why don't we give the same weight to the other gifts/roles?

You might even argue that the others should receive more attention, since they come first and word order can imply importance in Greek. You could also argue that the roles mentioned in Ephesians aren't a perfect bulleted list; the particles change in such a way that the categories probably should be read as "he gave some to be...:

  • apostles, yes

  • but also prophets

  • but also evangelists
  • but also shepherds-and-teachers"

...as if "shepherds and teachers" are nearly equivalent.

So, how can you "shape a community"? You can't. You can guide it. You can say, "the pasture of the kingdom is over there, guys." Don't even get me started on our fascination with measurement.

You want to celebrate stories? Ditch the "structured times". Tell me how much of the Old Testament consists of, "and then Hishbah the high priest went up to the altar and prayed the same prayer he prayed the week before, and gave the same offerings, and lo it was recorded in this book to be repeated at feasts forever." Structure grounds stories, but the stories worth celebrating are always about deviance from those structures.

Try this: duck the relentless pressure from stockholders, CEO's, and Bible college professors to "build something that lasts". Try making a church that has no Platonic existence outside of the people who minister and those whom they serve right now. We build social systems to insulate us from the poor judgment of tyrants, and are then surprised to find we are equally insulated from the good judgment of saints in creative works of service.

If you look at organizations throughout history, they're rarely started by teachers--start your new community with an apostle, prophet or evangelist instead.

Permalink 10/11/08 01:32:29 pm, by fumanchu Email , 607 words, Categories: Misc , Leave a comment »