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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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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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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.


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If You Arrive At Church Early (via Cornerstone Community Church)

Here are some benefits of turning up to church early.
(Roughly defined as more than 60-120 seconds before the appointed starting time, though in reality that’s actually arriving dead on time. Early would be sooner than that.)
If you consider your attendance as ministry to others, rather than as something that you do, or something that is for yourself, these are just a starting point.

If you’re early:
Your heart will be more settled and ready to worship our majestic Creator God.
You can take a few minutes to sit quietly and think about the Lord you came to worship.
You can get your children to the appropriate classrooms without rushing.
You can take a few minutes to encourage one another in fellowship before the service.
You can take a few minutes to read through the church bulletin before the service starts.
You can encourage your church leaders by showing greater respect for their careful and prayerful planning of the worship service.
You set a good example for your children in holding high the principle of love for others.

Read the whole post at Cornerstone Community Church.


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When The Church Feels Smaller, But Is Actually Larger (via Sam Rainer)

Sam Rainer observes the impacts on congregational life and ministry activity that flows from a contemporary change toward less frequent attendance at corporate worship by active Christians.
The reality challenges traditional practices of pastoral care and congregational communication.
For example:

The church feels smaller but is actually larger.
Consider a church that has four hundred people attending four out of four weeks. This church has an average weekly attendance of four hundred. Take the same church with the same people but change only the attendance frequency — lowered to two out of four weeks. The church’s average weekly attendance is now two hundred.
The true size of your church could be double the average weekly attendance, if not higher. Many will wonder Where is everyone? on a Sunday morning, but pastors and church leaders will experience an increased ministry load. As attendance frequency declines, the congregation will feel smaller while getting larger. The people coming less frequently still email, call, and set up counseling appointments. They still ask you to do funerals and weddings and come to the hospital.

Read his other observations at Sam Rainer.
He’s promising to address the situation.