Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Professional Ministry

If you’re interested in these thoughts on “ministry” and the life of the Church that I’ve been writing on lately, you might find a recent podcast to be of interest, courtesy of Alan Creech and Aaron Klinefelter. They spent about thirty minutes in conversation, unpacking some of the assumptions and problems of a “professional” ministry, especially pertaining to the nature of relationships in the Body of Christ, and living out a reformed style of leadership.

The podcast is here: Conversation of Faith I: Professionalism in the Body of Christ
Alan discusses it here
Aaron discusses it here

What I find most challenging to the prevalent paradigm is this concept of “Church as vehicle of transformation for those who are in it.” If we are in our life together the outworking of God’s plan to save the world (and I am convinced that we are; find my statements of ecclesiology here), then we must first order our own house: how will live together?

God’s transformation of our lives happens in the context of relationship: the relationship each of us have with each other, in him. Professionalism does indeed mean a “professional distance,” and I am unconvinced that this way of relating is good for Christian people. If a pastor’s role is to lead and guide a community, why is the pastor very often the one member of a community who is expected to come in, stay aloof from the entanglements of the poor pathetic laity, and then leave again when “called elsewhere”?

I don’t think presbyters are very often “called elsewhere,” at least not legitimately.

Can leadership happen by “finding solidarity rather than ruling by power,” as Aaron asks? I think that it must. We must be Christians together, before we can be anything else. Let the Holy Spirit give gifts according to the needs of the community, and let those members be appointed to offices according to their gifts. Alan expresses concern that in the commonly accepted paradigm
We’re … taking away real spiritual development in people. I think to cultivate real spiritual formation in peoples lives is much more about facilitating this being together for a long time, and experiencing God’s presence and his life together for a long time. This is not at all the idea of the church that we have, generally speaking.

This idea that we’re a part of the body of Christ from the beginning, that we’ll keep on going as long as it goes, and we don’t have to get everything done right now. We have to be the Body of Christ. That is what we have to be, and being that is what you gotta get done. Because being that is doing everything that needs to be done.
I could talk on that last bit for quite some time, but not today.

Go listen to it.


J. Walker said...

K, I feel that a large part of your thoughts on this run in the same vein as Henri Nouwen. Do you think his writing is an influence for you? in my loose recollection and paraphrase, he writes that we most effectively minister to one another in open relationship, from minister to congregation, believer to believer, and even believer to non-believer. If one looks at cutting edge or evangelism this type of ministry is happening. The cutting edge of the community church also fosters this openess. It leaves only the majority of the christian body behind to continue to swallow and spit up the same kind of cold, heartless, miserable "gospel" that has been its mainstay for who knows how long.

Not here anymore said...

Hmm...(she says, very skeptically)

Kyle said...

"swollow and spit up." I like that.

That's a good point, John, and I think it's fair to say that Nouwen's writings have influenced me heavily, particularly his views on hospitality -- making space for people -- in his Reaching Out. In the context of the "professional ministry" discussion, I wonder, how can I make a space for someone I won't allow to take space in my own life?

Nouwen also wrote extensively (perhaps especially noticably in The Wounded Healer, if I remember correctly) about his self-doubts as to the validity or usefulness of a priest in the "modern world." And if perhaps he was working from some kind of "professional" model, it would have fed that insecurity. I would certainly have no use for a presbyter who was always on the outside looking in...

Not here anymore said...

Your links to the podcast didn't work for me...surprise, surprise. Anything I'm supposed to do besides CLICK on the damn thing?!

Kyle said...

Right click and "save as."