IVP - Online Pulpit - August 2012 Archives

August 20, 2012

Vocational Holiness

By David Rohrer

Often after preaching a sermon or leading a weekend retreat a family member or colleague will ask me “How did it go?” In answer to this question all I can usually offer is some tepid remark like, “Well, it felt OK,” or “I got pretty good feedback.” The plain truth of the matter is that I am probably the person least qualified to weigh in on that question, because I am never quite sure how it went.

In thirty years of pastoral ministry I have yet to find a satisfactory measure of the success of my labors in the lives of others. Some say we can adopt the metrics of business and talk about growth in market share and income, which we translate into worship attendance and giving. Some look to formal and informal surveys of congregational satisfaction with respect to pastoral leadership. Yet none of these things can ever really tell me if people are growing in their capacity to say yes to Jesus and thus growing in the ability to love of God and neighbor.

While I can never be certain about what God is doing through me to accomplish this in others, I can be reasonably certain about is what God is doing in me as I try to faithfully answer his call. It is in this context that Eugene Peterson’s phrase vocational holiness comes to mind. I first saw it used in the title of his book, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness. The phrase speaks to the way God grows us as we answer his call. It is the affirmation that what God is doing in us as we seek to be faithful pastors is as important as what God is doing through us in the lives of others.

If we forget this and make institutional metrics the primary arbiters of our success, the results can be disastrous. We start thinking of ministry in mechanistic terms like “deploying our people” and “aligning mission and resources.” We potentially objectify persons and make congregations into little more than institutional abstractions that need to be managed. We forget that real work of the Spirit is happening in the hidden recesses of individual human hearts, and we get lost in the burdensome and ultimately unfulfilling work of merely trying to make our congregations going concerns.

So much more than this is possible, things greater than “we can ask or imagine.” The miracle of people growing into the image and likeness of Christ is happening all around us. When we are attentive to the ways it is also happening in us, we are on the road to becoming better pastors. Our vocation is one of the means God is using to shape us and when we are well established in our role as followers of Jesus we are going to make better leaders in his church.

RohrerOP.jpgDavid Rohrer is the author of The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry (IVP, 2012). He was ordained in 1982 and has served 3 Presbyterian churches in that time, most recently in Seattle. He is currently serving part-time as a Regional Mentor for PC USA.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 10:29 AM

August 8, 2012

Five Environments Needed to Create Missional Culture

by JR Woodward

Christ calls us to make disciples, yet too often our churches are filled with consumers of religious goods and services instead of Christlike disciples living in the world for the sake of the world in the way of Christ.

One of the most overlooked elements to making missional disciples is recognizing how the culture of our congregation shapes us. It either pulls us down toward our base instincts or lifts us up to our redemptive potential. We create culture and culture in turn recreates us.

Creating a missional culture develops a current within the congregation that enables people to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit and live missional lives. So what are the different environments necessary to create a missional culture?

A learning environment allows people to inhabit the sacred text. A learning environment moves past monologue to dialogue and praxis. Praxis takes place when thought, action and reflection operate in a cyclical fashion. We demonstrate we have learned when we are better able to live faithfully to God’s story. A learning environment can be cultivated as people allow God’s future to reshape how we live in the present and as we avail ourselves to various sacred assemblies for mutual learning.

A healing environment allows people to work through their past hurts and move toward a sense of wholeness and holiness in the context of community. A healing environment is developed when people sense an atmosphere of acceptance, where they understand that others are for them, no matter what they do. We are told to accept one another, just as Christ has accepted us (Rom 15:7). Being “for people” also means desiring God’s best for their lives. A healing environment can be cultivated as people find true friendships where they can be open and vulnerable.

A welcoming environment reflects that we understand that our God is a welcoming God. From the call of Abraham to John’s vision of people from every tribe, tongue and nation gathering to worship the living God, we see God’s welcoming heart. We cultivate a welcoming environment by following Christ in extending the table of fellowship to those whom society has marginalized by being witnesses of his great love. When we practice the art of hospitality, we give God room to work in people’s heart.

A liberating environment helps the congregation experience liberation from personal and social sins by forming Spirit-transforming communities. A liberating environment encourages people to overcome addictions, grow in personal holiness, speak truth to power and live in the power of the Spirit. A liberating environment is formed by connecting to our liberating God, the God of the exodus, the God of the cross, the God of the resurrection and the God of Pentecost, and by practicing the presence of God through the Spirit. For where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom.

Finally, if we desire to create missional culture, we need to cultivate a thriving environment, where a strong discipleship ethos is developed and the multiplication of disciples, ministries and churches take place. This happens as people understanding their sense of calling and live it out. This will take place as people work out their mentoring matrix, finding experienced mentors, peer mentors inside and outside of their organization and mentor others.

Each of these environments are linked to the five equippers in Ephesians 4, where Paul links the spiritual maturity of the church to the five kinds of equippers operating in the church: apostles (thriving environment), prophets (liberating environment), evangelists (welcoming environment), pastors (healing environment) and teachers (learning environment).

woodwardOP.jpgJR Woodward is the author of Creating a Missional Culture, and cofounder of Kairos LA and the Ecclesia Network. You can find a free cultural assessment on his website, www.jrwoodward.net.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 11:13 AM