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We. Know. Not. How. (via Nathan Knight at The Gospel Coalition)

This sort of humility in gospel work is refreshing in a Christian culture that takes the circumstances of a move of God, distills them to a set of practices or a program, and then expects gospel fruit from emulating those circumstances.
I like intentionality, but pause at the point where the program is depended upon to produce fruit, without conscious reliance on God’s graciousness.
I also want to affirm that while there may be no “proven strategies” there are behaviours that are so antithetical to grace that their fruit is decay.
Though written in the context of church planting I think it holds true for church growth plans as well.
From Nathan Knight:

There are no “proven strategies,” no books, no Enneagram numbers, that if you just plug into a city will produce success. Success is found in the faithful spreading of the seed.
How does it grow? We. Know. Not. How. We planters rest in the sufficiency of Christ and the Word that points to him as we lovingly and liberally scatter the gospel in our cities. Scattering seed and sleeping defines our success, beloved. How about that?

Read the whole post at Gospel Coalition.


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Pastoral Ministry Does Not Try To Save The Redeemed (via Henri Nouwen)

Henri Nouwen makes an important distinction about pastoral ministry.
A contemplative is able to live fully in the moment, but not be ruled by, and reacting to, the anxiety of that moment.
In that he is able to help others to look beyond their present ‘panic-stricken convulsions’ to responses that resonate with the character of the kingdom.

It is not the task of the Christian leader to go around nervously trying to redeem people, to save them at the last minute, to put them on the right track. For we are redeemed once and for all. The Christian leader is called to help others affirm this great news, and to make visible in daily events the fact that behind the dirty curtain of our painful symptoms there is something great to be seen: the face of Him in whose image we are shaped. In this way the contemplative can be a leader for a compulsive e generation because he can break though the vicious circle of immediate needs asking for immediate satisfaction. He can direct and steer their erratic energy into creative channels.

Henri Nouwen, The Wounded HealerMins, Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1994 ed., pg 44.


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Meetings That Won’t Conclude

What if Dilbert was a pastor?
Honestly, he handles meetings that won’t end more elegantly than I do.


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Love As The Fruit Of Marriage, Not The Cause (via Will Willimon)

Will Willimon observes, in Accidental Preacher, that the promises of marriage are future intent, not present activity. They presuppose challenges to faithfulness will come, and that promise will be needed to undergird service when circumstances would otherwise deter us.

There’s no such thing as instant friends, which is why the Service of Marriage is in future tense. It’s not “John, do you (or have you previously found the opportunity to) love Susan?” It’s “Will you love …?” Promises propel into the future, putting one at the mercy of the vicissitudes of another’s life with little backup but a promise. Love as the fruit of marriage rather than (as most couples suppose) the cause is church wonderfully weird.
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The church makes couples promise to stay married “until death do us part.” Strange to bring up death when most couples I marry look like they’re in pretty good shape. Death intrudes into the service of marriage because the promises of marriage are one way of dealing with our temporality, clinch-fistedly saying to the future, “Take form me what you will, by God I’ll still be faithful to this person.” When we promise to love the unfathomable mystery that is another “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” we creatively deal with our radical contingency, promising constancy even amid the ravages of time.

Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pgs 196, 197.


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On Being A Sad Good News Shepherd (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

A recent suicide by a US pastor whose ongoing struggles with his mental health were part of his public ministry has produced a lot of commentary on the subject of ministry, chronic depression, and how sufferers can live with both.

Connor Gwin writes from the perspective of his own life dealing with both of these areas, and how the church can stray into two unhelpful directions, both of which marginalise a situation that is anything but marginal.

Often, the Church floats between two extremes when it comes to mental health. On one side you have the folks that believe that mental health is a purely spiritual matter; that depression is a sign of spiritual weakness and the solution is prayer. On the other side, you have people that believe that mental illness is a purely physical issue caused by improper brain function and cured through therapy and medicine.
What both sides share is a firm commitment to silence. If your mental illness is a spiritual problem, you will (most likely) not discuss it in church. If your mental illness is only a physical problem, you will talk with your therapist but not your faith community.
What we are left with is a church that never speaks of mental illness. The problem is that mental illness affects everyone in our churches, including our pastors.

The deeper question Gwin wants to interact with is whether there is a place in pastoral ministry for those who suffer.

The mental health of the pastor can make or break a church when the pastor is the focus of the church, not Christ. Too often pastors are seen as “professional Christians” or moral exemplars that set the bar for the congregation.
Of course, there is some truth to this. A pastor should be a Christian on the path, but the thing about being on the Christian path is that you will stumble. You will fall into sin. You will miss the mark. You will be selfish and make bad choices. You will not have it all together. This is all true of pastors as well.
Should people with mental illness be disqualified from ministry? Perhaps some should, but this question raises the deeper question:
Who is qualified for ministry?
If scripture is our guide, we see that God has a special way of using the most broken for His purposes.

Read the rest of the post at Mockingbird.


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When A Clergyman Inadvertently Finds Himself At A Card Party (via Centuries Of Advice)

When I was studying to be a pastor we didn’t get advice as forthright and practical as this.
One should endeavour to ascertain the true character of a party when accepting an invitation.
source


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A Lifetime View Of Ministry (via Tom Ascol)

In the midst of a reflection about pastoral commitment (and not making decisions on Mondays), Tom Ascol makes a point about pastoral calling that is helpful; one that makes more and more sense as the years go by.
When considering a call to ministry, along with consideration about whether to go, the thought needs to be entertained “Could I spend the rest of my life here?”
IF ministry is thought of as a career, a call may be looked at as a stepping stone.
If ministry is thought of as a calling, then God may have us serve a company of people for the remainder of our working life.
As Ascol stresses, this does not mean that God will move a pastor, but it does mean that we wait on God for the impetus to relocate our field of ministry.
From Ascol:

I believe that it is extremely valuable, if not essential, for a pastor to accept a call to serve a church with a willingness and desire to spend his life in that place. This is not to say that the Lord will never move him to another place, but such an attitude will always put the burden of proof on the move.

Read the whole post here.