Sunday, November 12, 2006

21. Pastor

"Ummmm.......I need to speak with the pastor." Is it a title or a function? It is most often used as a title. In reality, it is a function, like the rest of the gifts in Ephesians 4. So why do we use it as a title? Well, the answer to this is multidimensional, bu t I think I will tackle this one from the institutional dimension. (Surprise right?) When a church becomes institutional in nature, the functions of the body tend to gravitate towards fixed and static processes. In other words, because institutions, by default, exert a tremendous gravitational pull towards self preservation, the people within the institutions tend to be forced into positions of maintenance within the institution. And the nature of these positions are more often than not dictated by the needs of the institution, rather than the giftedness of the individual. In short, the tail ends up wagging the dog.

This reversal of services is clearly seen in the institutional churches role of pastor. While there are varied examples and scenarios, I will be speaking to this situation as some one with an apostolic and prophetic orientation. This of course limits my perspective, but what other choice do i have?

Now then, what normally happens is that someone with an apostolic, prophetic, or evangelistic gifting comes into an interview with a group of elders, search committee, or some other group responsible for hiring a "pastor", and displays a visionary, evangelistic or apostolic dimension in the interview. As a result, the hiring committee is impressed and attracted to their natural passion for the Kingdom and sees them as the thing they have been missing in their church. As a result, the individual is hired for his gifting, but then forced to function as an administrator or pastor. This is extremely frustrating for the apostle, prophet or evangelist who does not possess the gift of administration or pastoring. Frustration and disillusionment sets in and the "pastor" starts looking else where, to another church for a new beginning where things might be different. All along, wondering why he can only stay somewhere 2-4 years at a time without being wooed into another "pastors" position with promising possibilities of using his gifts. Only to repeat the cycle again, or, worse, settle down and perform as "pastor", all the while neglecting their gifting.

So what is a pastor? The picture above of ? protecting herself and absorbing the attack of the enemy is a perfect metaphor. The pastor is a protector, carer, humanizer, preserver. They look inward to the needs of the community. They are loyal to its needs and concerns. Do not talk to a pastor about leaving the flock to go searching for the one. They will stay with the 99 every time. They are not thrill seekers or adventurous. They are the nurturers. Leave the 99 to the apostle or evangelist. Let the prophet and teacher stimulate the apostle and evangelist into going after the one. But the pastor would never dare leave his flock. He will protect them at a ll costs. Even if it means compromising his convictions.

In the institutional church, the pastors surface as the ones who are the preservers of community. They guard and value the homogeneous nature of community. I am of course speaking of the function of a pastor. The title of pastor, in the institutional church is sometimes altogether different. The "pastor" in an institutional church functions as the administrator and symbolic mediator of the organization. I say symbolic mediator because many times they are forced to mediate to the congregation a in a public way, or through preaching, a visual representation of all the gifts.

Because Sunday morning is the primary venue by which the "pastor" is seen and interpreted, there is a tremendous pressure for him to portray himself as a multi-dimensional persona. Instead of letting the apostles be the apostles, and the evangelists be the evangelists, the "pastor", either willingly or by unspoken expectations, attempts to gather with in himself the the other gifts, vindicating the church's decision to place him in the position of "pastor."

When the pastor does not effectively portray this, several things can naturally happen. First, the church can become disenchanted with the pastor, and look for a new performer. Secondly, and this is the more likely, the church begins to take on the personality of the "pastor." This clonoing bleeds through despitethe best efforts of the pastor to disseminate through example and teaching the other giftings. This involuntary cloning is inevitable because of the way the institutional church is structured and formatted. Thirdly, the "pastor" becomes disillusioned by their own inability to play the role they have been given, and sinks into depression, cynicism or apathy.

So after pointing out the negatives, is there anything good to be said of the function Pastor. Well, to start with, thank God pastor is something you do and not who you are. It is a function. and those with the gift of pastoring have a unique ability to facilitate community, nurture a community, and protect a community. They are the relational guardians of community per se. If we were to fit tem into the over all scheme of the 5 gifts in Ephesians four, it would be in relation to comunity.

1. Apostle: Elicits and Pioneers a community through the message of Jesus
2. Prophet: Stimulates and Ignites a community with the message
3. Evangelist: Emboldens and Adds to a community through sharing of the message
4. Pastor: guards and nurtures the personal and communal needs of a community

The gift of pastoring is an inward gifting. It is focused inward to the needs and empowerment of the community. This inward nature of pastoring is a two edge sword. It is extremely unhealthy when not held in check by the first three gift. with out the apostles, and evangelists, a community will gravitate into serving its own needs and eventually become a closed culture of self centered individuals. Conversely, the same can be said of the apostles and evangelsits. If you do not have any pastors functioning in a community, the needs of the comunity will go malnourished. This will happen right under the nose of the apostle or evangelist with out their atention. However, when you have godly pastors, and vibrant apostles and evangelists parntering in the body, watch out! You are o nthe verge of a healthy and vibrant community.

Too often, the apostles or the pastors have dominated with their own perspectives in leadership. Always wanting to reach more people to the neglect of the ones already in the community, or by pastors giving continuous attention to the community, with no regard for the culture around them that needs to be penetrated with the message.

So how do you solve this problem? In my experience, the only ay to solve this problem is to not have a sunday, preacher/"pastor" centered church. The current forms and structures of churches create a bottle neck of energy, information, perspective and chrisma through the pulpit. This needs to be decentralized into a setting where every person can use their giftings. The only way that I can see this happening is in some type of organic system.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

20. Evangelist

Unlike Apostolic and Prophetic, which are taboo words in my heritage, evangelist is on the other extreme. It has been used as an umbrella to cover the other functions, and no doubt, as a verb to brow beat people into inviting people to church or doing one on one Bible Studies. Even as I think about what to write about this function, I am flooded with overlapping concepts and ideas, blurring into a discombobulated blob of ideas.

This word though is a power packed word and is actually a key function in the body. In fact, this function is low maintenance in that it does not need special circumstances to operate. The evangelist is one who loves to share with people what God has done. They may do this through witnessing, inviting, or prayer. Either way, they are oriented towards helping people transition into the Kingdom. When you tell them about an opportunity to help someone learn, experience or become exposed to God, it ignites a passion in them.

Do not confuse this function with a sales rep at a store though. It is not personality specific. It is much broader than the extroverted personality. The evangelist is the one who, by virtue of their interactions with people, penetrates their relational network with the aroma and message of the Good News. So it is not a cookie cutter style or presentation. It is a life lived so the message will have a crack at some one's life.

I love the web site It basically says that evangelism is doable, so don't package it as an elephant.

So what does evangelism look like? Here is a brief and limited example. Every Sunday, me, my wife, and two other kids along with their mom go to a skate park here in Clarksville and skate the ramps and concrete waves. What are we doing? We are skating. Is this evangelism? Some would say we are skipping church. I say we are bringing the church to where life happens! I am meeting some of the parents, kids and skater dudes. My goal in being there is to have fun skating and build relationships with people. This is doable. I am not trying to get them into a building. I am not trying to coerce them into talking about God. I am building relationships in public and praying intensely in private.

The apostle orchestrates communities of the message, the prophet critiques with the message, the evangelist shares that message to those in darkness. What a vital and critical function in the community of Christ!

My guess is that there are a lot of evangelists out there who do not know it. Laying dormant or operating in 007 mode. Let's ask the Lord of the Harvest to raise up workers for the harvest.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

19. Prophetic

"The main task of prophetic thinking is to bring the world into divine focus." The Prophets by Abraham J. Heschel. Because of the transformation of words and the baggage they acquire through time, also referred to as etymology, discussing Biblical terminology often requires "redefining" words to align them with their original intent. The word "Prophecy" falls into this category. It is one of those words that has been infused with mystical, often magical connotations, conjuring up images of a psychic.
However, from a biblical point of view, Prophecy is more than merely telling the future. It goes deeper than just forecasting who is going to win the Superbowl. Prophecy has more to do with shaping the present. In the Israelite tradition, the prophet would be "caught up" into the heavenly council of God where he would receive visions of both the future and the present. Viewing the present from God's point of view created within the prophet an intimate connection with God. It fostered a compassion for God's heart for the people. The prophet would experience the world form God's angle and in a small fashion, enter into what scholars call the pathos, or, the suffering of God. He would receive insight into what God felt, his emotions and disappointment. In short, he would empathize with God.
In contrast to experiencing the present from God's standpoint, he would also gaze upon the future. He would be exposed to either the impending judgment or eschatological hope of the community of God. This combination of viewing both the present depravity of the people and their possible future judgment or deliverance would instill within the prophet an intense burden to represent God's heart to the people. He would "descend" back into his context with a burning passion to proclaim to the people what God had so clearly impressed upon his heart. Far from being a commercial about the future, prophecy is a calculated exposure of the status quo followed by a scathing rebuke.
As Abraham J. Heschel put it, "Prophecy, then, may be described as exegesis of existence from a divine perspective." It is an act of divine commentary on our situations. When a prophetic word comes into our lives, it manifests so much powerful because it lays us bare and exposes our true condition. It critiques our present state with such candid images and blunt language that we stand naked before God with no defense. It brings such a rare epiphane and clarity that it shocks us into attention. A prophetic word from God will often wound before it heals.
This brings me to the gift of prophecy mentioned in Ephesians 4. Those with the gift of prophecy are not modern day psychics handing out mysterious pieces of information for our paranormal amusement. They function as mouth pieces for God. And just as in the days of old, their messages are not primarily warm fuzzies. In fact, a prophet is often annoying. They are agitators and are often borderline negative. They critique the status quo and call for the people of God to live by a different standard. They expose the shallow and superficialness of our spirituality and rebuke our conformity to the surrounding culture.
Quite honestly, we do not want prophets around. The prophets were not the most popular people on the block. You did not crave one on one time with them. There were no lunch appointments with a prophet. Why? They are not your average social butterflies. Bottom line is.....they are a nag and tend to be critical. They are idealist on steroids. With their zeal for the Holiness and Justice of God they have a tendency to mess up our rhythm and shatter our fragile egos. And what gives them this courage? Quite simply, they are passionate about God and not our feelings. Their heart for God supercedes their desire for approval.
But the brutal fact is, as annoying as prophets are, we need them. We desperately need this gift to operate in the body of Christ today. Most of the paid staff members of church can not function in this role. Their job security does not allow it. Yet without the prophets, our vision of the world and our own condition is in danger of being blurred by our fleshly desires and thwarted values. Without prophets we can not see God or our situations with clarity. We drift into mediocre, sub normal lives, never noticing our gradual descent into lukewarmness.
The church not only needs to embrace this shunned gift, but it also needs to develop the discipline of thinking prophetically. We do not need to be afraid of being self critical. Examining ourselves under the microscope of God's message is a prophetic task for the church to adopt.
The challenge? If you are a prophet, use your gift! If you are wanting to lead the church, think prophetically. I leave you with this quote from Mr. Heschel.
"The main task of prophetic thinking is to bring the world into divine focus."

18. Apostolic

This is one of those words I always associated with the holiness movement. You know, those signs in front of churches that have 14 words to the title of the church. Apostolic is just not in my vocabulary.
Recently, I just finished a book called The Shaping of Things to Come by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. One of the many insights they have in their book is into the role of the gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4. They call it APEPT Leadership. (abbreviations for the 5 gifts mentioned there.) Aside from their deliberate focus upon discovering your gifts, they analyzed what role these 5 gifts play in the life cycle of a church or movement. Implementing the bell curve, they identified Apostles as the initiators of movements. This places them at the beginning of the curve. At the top of the curve are the pastors and teachers.
In case you are wondering, apostles are the people who have a hard time staying in one place for a along time. They are trail blazers, innovators, pioneers, borderline revolutionists. Those with the gift of apostleship have the unique ability to begin new works for God in uncharted territories. In fact, they are down right miserable if they are tied down to one project or assignment too long. They need the wide open fields of opportunity and adventure. Some people are born with roots, and some people are born with wings. Apostles would be the latter. They thrive on new beginnings, new projects, new challenges and opportunities.
In the church, unfortunately, this gift is often marginalized and discounted. It is superseded by the more "valuable" gifts such a pastoring or teaching. This is due in part to our structure as an institutional church. As a result, it has led our seminaries and our ministry training centers to glorify and centralize the gifts of teaching and pastoring. Missions is what we do over in the other countries. And quite honestly, it is left to those who do not "fit the mold" of the glorified pastor.
Ironically enough, there are a lot of apostles who are unfortunatley forced into the role of pastors. Here's how it goes down. Apostles are passionate, visionary people who have a tendency to show up with shock and awe in job interviews at churches. The leadership of an established church is normally impressed and enthralled with their apostolic dynamic and say to themselves in closed meetings, this is exactly what we need here at our church right now. Unfortunately, that is as far as the wisdom reaches. What ends up happening is the apostle is hired for their apostlic dynamic but is immediatley placed in a pastoral position with pastoral responsibilities and expectations. This makes for a highly frustrated apostle, not to mention a confused leadership, who, at first is enamored with the apostolic impact, but secretly wants a pastor to "run the church." The end result is a square peg being forced into a round hole. Either the apostle buckles down and plays the role of a pastor, or they leave. Or the other option is, they get fired for not running the machine correctly. In the institutional church, there is literally not a place for apostles.
Because of this imbalance, our churches are deprived of the vitality and fresh energy that comes from an apostolic movement. The church desperately needs to embrace this gift and create space for it to flourish. The beginning of the life cycle in the Kingdom begins with Apostles. Just look at the book of Acts. Without the apostolic movement within the early days of the church, there would be little to write about in church history.
This is not to discount the gifts of pastoring and teaching. They are critical to the health of the body. However, it seems that these two gifts have been elevated to the point of exclusion of the other gifts. In most cases, when this happens, the church experiences a plateau. It drifts into a self-centered, inward focused atmosphere.
Now, it takes a prophet to point all of this out to the church, but after the prophetic word arrives, those with the gift of apostleship must emerge.
This is where it gets sort of complex. In order for the apostles to emerge, there must be leadership structures in place that can nurture, train and release those with apostolic gifts into their callings. This means that ministry should not be bottle necked to the pastors and teachers. It means that church planting and Kingdom agendas need to take center stage in our vision casting, teaching and ministry efforts.
We need to be revitalized. This will truly take place when the church allows the body to freely express itself through its divinely appointed ways. Operating in our gifts to the glory of God.
Lord, raise up workers for the harvest.

Friday, March 31, 2006

17. The Fantastic Five

I just recently finished watching "The Fantastic Four" -at the theaters. It brung back a lot of memories. I used to collect this comic when I was "younger." My mother would send me to the 7-11 for a slurpee and as a motivation to go, she would give me .50 to buy a comic while I was there. I always thought they were the coolest (along with wolverine and the X-Men). Upon reflecting about the roles of the characters, I realized that the fantastic four is a contemporary version of the building blocks of the universe. (Stoichea if you are a new testament junky). The old school building block were earth, air, fire and water. In the Fantastic Four, water is considered a little bit our of date (we are no longer an agricultural society) and is replaced with Mr. Fantastic, who, for all practical purposes, liquidizes his body to either stretch or conform his body to the needs at hand. Sort of like water, but not really.
Besides this variation, the Fantastic Four are a recapitulation of the original, fundamental elements of the universe.
As such, they are the perfect postmodern story line for heroes. If you have not noticed, the one man, got it all together super hero is sort of not so popular in these post-modern days. Specifically, Superman. Superman is a super-hero construct from modernity. He relies on no one, has only one flaw, and can do anything and everything well. You might be thinking in the back of your mind, hold on, what about Batman and Spider man. They are "one man super heroes", but they were block buster hits. Well, good point. But there is a subtle, yet distinct difference between these two and Superman. Batman is a pull yourself up from your own bootstraps type of hero. He is not endowed from on high with supernatural gifts, perfect from day one. He also has Robin at his side. Spiderman, while being a lone ranger per so, has to struggle with his identity. His accidental infection causes him to search for his place in this world, dealing with the uncertainty of his new existence. OK, I digressed.
What does this have to do with anything? The Fantastic Four is a model for our approach to ministry. Too often, we take the Superman approach to the Kingdom Agenda. We either assume the Superman role ourselves or expect other people to be Superman to us. (This is especially true in the institutional church where the clergy are placed in that Superman role, sometimes all too eagerly on their part. Carl Jung called this the Christ Archetype.) Really, God has not designed any of us to be the total package. We are each individually gifted by God to play a unique role in the Kingdom.
I want to suggest that the Fantastic Four are paradigmatic of the five gifts in Ephesians 4.

Apostle - The Human Torch
Prophet - The Thing
Evangelist - Mr. Fantastic
Pastor - Invisible Woman
Teacher - Dr. Reed Richards - (later transformed into Mr. Fantastic)

Each one of these characters illuminates and illustrates the functions of the five gifts in Ephesians 4. The following 5 blogs will be an exploration into their similarities.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

16. Jehovah-jireh. When God moves, or we move, or any movement takes place, it is always within the world of God. I was let go from my position as campus minister last night. I was originally going to resign from the church in May, but after making them aware of my decision to resign, plant a church, and my theological differences with the traditional COC, they decided to let me go immediately. It was untimely in that I wanted to finish the school year well, and provide a good ending of the semester to the students in our ministry. But.....This will not take place. Andy Stanley says that vision attracts criticism. Those of you who are visionaries can attest to the truth of this statement. Vision has a way of getting under the skin of some, inspiring others, and indicting us all. Our vision to start a church planting movement has met its first official criticism and opposition.

10 years ago I would have been devastated after being fired by a church. I am actually thankful. Being released from this context of ministry will enable me to pursue wholeheartedly my passion to facilitate this movement. What the enemy intended for harm, has actually turned out to be a catalyst for the spreading of the message. God is GOOD! Please pray for our team to be prayerful and loving to God and eachother. We want to be a missional community empowered by the Holy Spirit. Walking with God is never safe. But it is exciting. Yes! We are on the journey. God will provide for our family and the church plant.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

15. Name Change.

As we surveyed the church landscape of Clarksville, we noticed that there were at least 5 other churches that either start with the name Grace or have this word in their title. As a church planting movement, we want to fill a distinct niche in Clarksville, and reach out to the unchristian population in the city. We do not want to be just another church that has a new fad of worship or ministry, attracting a large group of either disgruntled church members or people with too much traditional church baggage. We are targeting the unchristian and the seeker first, and then, if a Christian comes among us who likes our values and mission, we will praise God for sending workers into the harvest.

It is basically a matter of values and vision. We want to start a movement of planting culturally relevant churches, and to do that, we need to lay new foundations and practice new methods. Our vision does not revolve around (to use one of Gailyn Van Rheenen's phrases) massaging the already existing church culture in Clarksville. We are going to be a missional community that is on journey with God to engage the world around us.

Having said all of that, we have chosen to leave the word "church" out of our name. Several people on our team have made notice of people they know in their relational network that would not come to a "church" because of all the negative baggage associated with "church." i.e. dressing up, putting on a facade, judgmentalism, clicks, etc. (All the stuff we try so desparately to avoid, but somehow periodically drift into). I guess what I am saying is that our decisions in this plant will revolve around building community and engaging unchristians, not marketing ourselves to the Christian community so we can have a "Big Church". We do not want to be a mega-church. We want to be a church planting movement that plants missional, culturally relevant churches. At the same time, if GOd blesses us with that kind of growth, we will continue to plant churches and continue to follow God with the growth. We are not militantly anti-mega church, we are just not seeking it or nurturing that philosophy for our Kingdom efforts..

Well, here it is. Our "name" will be IKON. We chose this name for several reasons. First, an ikon is the Greek word in the new testament for image. As such, it will communicate that we are seeking to reflect the image of Jesus Christ. Second, an "ikon" point to something greater than itself. It is only a representation of a greater reality. This is all we are. We are not the attraction, we only stimulate and point people into another realm where they experience Him. Third, it will be a great conversation starter. I have already had several good conversations with people about this name that led to some interesting insights into God and "church." Fourthly, if I am honest, I think it sounds cool. Lastly, it will set us apart, for the time being, from the church culture here in Clarksville.

But let's keep things in perspective here. A community will not thrive and reflect the reign of God because it has a cool name. It will thrive because of the faith hope and love of the people in the community. It will thrive because the Spirit is allowed to work in us as an individual and community.