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The Job Of Getting Out Of The Way (via Darryl Dash)

God uses people as a means to the end of having people meet and come to have Jesus as their Saviour and Lord.
Pastors have a particular role as one of those means.
It is possible for focus on the pastor and their personality and leadership to become the point at which people stop.
They’ve got some sort of relationship with the pastor, but not with Jesus.
Darryl Dash observes the problem, and the tendency in some sections of the church to be fuelling the focus on individuals and their ministries, and provides the solution.

Our job as pastors is to get out of the way.
Look for ways to move out of the spotlight. Shine the spotlight on Jesus. Make the focus of your ministry him. I’ve found that the Spirit seems to work powerfully when the focus is on Jesus, and less powerfully when I try to sneak my way into the spotlight. Make Jesus’ glory the focus of your ministry.

Read the rest of his post here.


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Ministry As More Than A ‘Helping Profession’ (via Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon)

Pastoral ministry is not a therapeutic activity, it is a means that “can help to create a people worthy to tell the [Gospel] story and to live it.”
Hauerwas and Willimon write so well that every line is pleasure to read, and is so well constructed its hard to lift little grabs of text because they are knit so organically with the whole.
So, the introduction to their article posted at Religion Online:

Parish clergy and seminarians today seem content to have ministry numbered among the “helping professions. ” After all, most professing Christians, from the liberals to the fundamentalists, remain practical atheists. They think the church is sustained by the services it provides or the amount of fellowship and good feeling in the congregation. This form of sentimentality has become the most detrimental corruption of the church and the ministry.
Sentimentality is that attitude of being always ready to understand but not to judge. Without God, without the one whose death on the cross challenges all our good feelings, who stands beyond and over against our human anxieties, all we have left is sentiment, a saccharine residue of theism in demise. Sentimentality is the way our unbelief is lived out.
If the ministry is reduced to being primarily a helping profession, then parish clergy will also be destroyed by the presumption that all sincerely felt needs are legitimate needs. Ministry will be trivialized into the service of needs.
This problem is compounded by the fact that ministers are often people who need to help people. They like to be liked and need to be needed. Their personal needs become the basis for their ministry. Underestimating how terribly deep other people’s needs can be, they enter ministry with an insufficient sense of personal boundaries, and are devoured by the voracious appetites of people in need. One day they may awake to find that they have sacrificed family, self-esteem, health and happiness for a bunch of selfish people who have eaten them alive. Pastors then come to despise what they are and to hate the community that made them that way. The pastor realizes that people’s needs are virtually limitless, particularly in an affluent society in which there is an ever-rising threshold of desire (which we define as “need”). With no clear job description, no clear sense of purpose other than the meeting of people’s needs, there is no possible way for the pastor to limit what people ask of the pastor.
Some say the clergy should develop more self-esteem, be more assertive, learn to say No, demand a day off–in brief, become as self-centered as many of the people in their congregations…

Read the rest here.


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Classic Country Footy Club Coffee

Wonderful hospitality at Tarpeena Football Club after a funeral today.

I saw cups like these in The Dish earlier this week, and the take me back to childhood memories.

And that mug has every one of 43 beans in it.


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Funerals That Highlight The Defeat Of Death (via Jason Allen at 9Marks)

This article urges Christians to refrain from allowing funerals to be replaced by celebrations of life.
A celebration of life evades the inescapable fact that there’s been a death.
Instead of an acknowledgement of that they become “post-mortem roasts for non-celebrities.”

Jason Allen isn’t against laughter and a sense of lightness, but any lightness should come from the sustainable source of Jesus’ victory over death.

[Funerals] force us to consider soberly what comes after the finality of death. The preacher of Ecclesiastes tells us, “It will be well with those who fear God” and that “It will not be well with the wicked.” These contrasting truths follow the preacher’s comments on the burial of the wicked. Once praised in the city, presumably praised at their burial, this wicked person is now dead—and what matters now is whether they feared God.
Does this mean all funerals should be dreary and depressing? Of course not. Instead, their emotional tenor should be appropriately attuned to the sad reality of death, even as it’s considered alongside the joyful remembrance of the dead.
After all, death is God’s enemy. Paul tells us as much in 1 Corinthians 15:26. But it’s an enemy that has already been defeated by the resurrection of Jesus. What better venue than a funeral to highlight this glorious truth?

source


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The Injury Every Pastor Needs (via Ray Ortlund)

Ray Ortlund offers counsel to younger ministers that their ministries will take a lifetime, and they can’t be short-tracked.
I found his observations to be true, but that they are also applicable all through life.
They aren’t just stages you go through, rather they are awarenesses you grow into, awarenesses that then accompany you in ministry.

Here he writes about the breaking of pride and self-reliance that every pastor needs, and which can’t be taught, it can only be experienced.

At some point in your life, God will injure you so extremely that the self-reliance you aren’t even aware of, the self-reliance with which you’ve been navigating so consistently by that it feels natural and innocent, will collapse under the loss and anguish. You will start realizing, “Oh, so this is what it means to trust the Lord. I need him now with an urgency, a desperation, a seriousness of purpose deeper than ever before.”
And then God will come through for you. And you will emerge from that suffering a deeper saint. You will be a better preacher and pastor and leader and counselor and teacher and friend, because you will be a better man — more like the wounded Christ himself.

source


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Everything Is Great. Literally. (via Poorly Drawn Lines)

Pastors have something like this conversation with each other recurrently.
Literally.

source


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Communal Lament And The Humanisation Of Suffering (via Eugene Peterson)

When faced with suffering, pastoral ministry does not try to fix the one who is suffering. Instead the one who suffers is taken seriously and offered a fellowship of faithful companionship to be with them in the darkness.
This is not therapeutic, it is is ministry.
Encouraging grief and suffering to be expressed in isolation, or separated from others is not strength. It is a denial of the community and humanity which suffering can lead to.
From Eugene Peterson.

One of the strategies for pastoral work is to enter private grief and make a shared event of it. The biblical way to deal with suffering is to transform what is individual into something corporate. No single person’s sin produced the sufferings consequent to Jerusalem’s fall, and no single person ought to mourn them: response to suffering is a function of the congregation.
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When private grief is integrated into communal lament several things take place. For one thing the acts of suffering develops significance. If others weep with me, there must be more to the suffering than may own petty weakness or selfish sense of loss. When others join the sufferer, there is “consensual validation” that the suffering means something. The community votes with its tears that there is suffering that is worth weeping over.
Further, community participation insures a human environment. The threat of dehumanisation to which all pain exposes us – of being reduced to the the level of he “the beasts that perish” – is countered by the presence of the other persons whose humanity is unmistakeable. The person who, through stubbornness or piety, insists on grieving privately not only depersonalises himself or herself but robs the community of participation in what necessarily expands its distinctiveness as a human community as over against the mob.
Again, when the community joins in the lament, sanction is given for the expression of loss – the outpouring of emotion is legitimised in such a way as to provide for catharsis and then renewal.

Eugene Peterson, Five Smooth Stones For Pastoral Work, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992 ed., pgs 142, 143.