Pastoral Ministry

Barna: "less than 10 percent of pastors" willing to speak about controversial issues they believe the Bible addresses

"Many theologically conservative pastors agree the Bible speaks to key issues of the day, but research indicates only a handful of them say they will speak [about these issues]."

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So You Want to Be in “The Ministry”

When I was in college, a lot of my friends were preparing to go into “The Ministry.” Some were full of holy zeal for mission work, some had plans for pastoral ministry, and some were simply caught up in the whirlwind of surrender. The “Preacher Boys” dated and married the girls called to be “Pastors’ Wives” and we all dreamed of future service.

Somehow when the dust had settled, I found myself married to one of those “Preacher Boys” despite no pressing need to be a “Pastor’s Wife” or to be in vocational ministry. Our first years together were spent finishing up school, going through the process of ordination, and eventually launching out into “The Ministry.” But nearly a decade and a half later, I’ve learned a few things. And most of them bear no resemblance to what I thought I knew.

I was reminded of this today when I read this piece from Jared Wilson about watching one of his parishioners waste away in hospice. Wilson is a popular blogger and author, but he spends most of his time in the trenches as a pastor, and this piece particularly captures the realities of ministry. The pain, the heartbreak, the inexplicable hope of the gospel. The joy of watching people triumph over death through the power of Christ.

We didn’t talk about these things in college.

11963 reads

Understanding the Small Church - Six Trends

From Voice, Jul/Aug 2013. Used by permission. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Though we may understand the characteristics of the small church, ministry is not static, but dynamic. It is not conducted in a sterile test tube isolated from the winds of culture. Instead, we find that the culture in which we live intertwines with the programs we conduct. As a result, the trends that blow across the cultural landscape infiltrate the cracks of the church and affect the ministry and flow of the congregation. Some of these trends are positive, resulting in new opportunities to reach people for Christ. Others undermine the foundation of the church and, if not confronted with a biblical response, assault the stability of the ministry. Still others are neutral, having in themselves no moral or spiritual implications, but radically affect the manner in which the church conducts its ministry.

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Understanding the Small Church - Truly Different

From Voice, Jul/Aug 2013. Used by permission.

When David arrived at his first pastorate, he was excited about the possibilities. The church was a small church located on the fringe of a large metropolitan area. David had received high marks in his seminary experience and he was well trained for ministry. Before and during seminary he had attended a large, nationally recognized church in one of the major cities of the United States. He had spent six months on staff as an intern in order to get a feel for developing ministries and leading the programs of the church.

However, upon his arrival at the small church he sensed things were vastly different from his large church experience. And after he had been serving as the pastor for several months, David fully realized that the small church functioned with a unique set of characteristics. At first he tried to change them. Following the recommendations of the latest writings on the seeker-sensitive model of ministry, he tried to bring the church up to the 21st century (at least in his estimation). After several frustrating years, he stepped back and decided that perhaps he first needed to understand his people and what they wanted the church to be and do.

He began to do some careful listening and realized that they had the same heart for evangelism, discipleship and worship that he possessed, only they expressed it differently. Rather than try to change them, he decided that he would change his own attitudes and actions. For the first time since his arrival, he accepted them for who they were and how they expressed their faith in Christ.

9511 reads

People Skills, Africa and Coaching

sawubonaRepublished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Mar/Apr 2013.

Most greetings are mundane and meaningless. “How are you” is the standard icebreaker in the U.S. That inquiry is normally answered by an equally empty: “fine.” The greeter normally doesn’t really care how you are doing and the responder normally isn’t all that “fine.” But this perfunctory greeting moves us to further conversation. So we continue to do it.

Greetings in Africa are totally different. The normal Zulu greeting is “sawubona.” It literally means “I see you.” It is a kind and gracious way to acknowledge the worth of an individual. It acknowledges the presence and importance of the other person. It means my life stops to focus on yours.

African greetings can be long. It is not unusual to engage in an extended line of questions about the condition of your home, children, wife, goats, farm, garden and work. Greetings can go on for several minutes.

As a Westerner, it seems like a waste of time to spend five minutes saying hello. But in a relational culture, there is serious interest in the other person as an individual. Relationships are important in an African culture. So greetings take a while. It just isn’t polite to launch into a conversation without an appropriate greeting.

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