Wednesday, 9 July 2008

spiritual community

I've returned from Didcot and Charney Bassett - Baptist House at Didcot for National Settlement Team and Charney Bassett for the second half of NST and Team Leaders. I love these times together and have say it is one of the rich privileges of my life. We meet over three days ten times a year which means we spend a good deal of time together and gain from the supportive and mutually encouraging environment created. Today we spent some time talking about 'spiritual community' which was also the main focus for our last Imagine evenings in WEBA. I really think this is scratching at a crucial facet of partnering together in the gospel and look forward to see how we can work this our in practice further. The photo today is from two months ago - pouring with rain today, but the puddings at Charney are absolutely wonderful. When you get the mix of good and stimulating company & good food right, I can cope with a bit of rain. Ben's doing work experience on a pig farm this week so I'll look forward to hearing how much mud he's been in - glad to hear Louise has been selected to ride for Ireland and is off to Beijing - this family is really moving in high circles these days!    
In ‘Church Next’ Eddie Gibbs identifies nine ‘storm centres’ we shall need to navigate if we are to emerge as Churches equipped to communicate the gospel in our generation. (He wrote the book in 2001 and it seems we still need to grapple with all of them). However, one of them is highlighted as ‘ from schooling professionals to mentoring leaders’. Training for life-long learning/ team players rather than professional religious instructors.

To what extent does our church culture confine the gifts of the pastoral leader?

I regularly have a conversation with people where the idea of ‘re-inventing yourself’ comes up. If we’re not careful this can mean little more than following the latest fad or fashion in the Christian sub-culture. However, what’s usually being referred to is the rapidly changing context in which we’re called to be Ministers and Churches are called to engage. In such a context we need Ministers who can navigate some pretty choppy waters. For this I want turn to be able to those who are ‘able to keep the Church true to Jesus’ (this is my Colleague Pat Took’s phrase, for which I owe a great debt). Simple to say, all encompassing to live out and practice as the Minister of a Church. It does say something about priorities. A Minister may be a gifted Pastor, but if their best  energy goes only into developing and exercising their  gift we end up with a dependent Church. A Minister may an excellent Evangelist, but put them at the helm of a Church without recognising other gifts of leadership, the place invariably blows up. (I wont quote case studies to back up these claims!) 

My point is simply this – our gifts are not our primary calling. ‘Minister’ is not a bad word because it acts as a reminder we are called to serve the Church. With a wider perspective I see the harsh reality of this played out in the life of our Churches – Ministers come and go, but the Church remains. Often this is an observation which Ministers talk about in negative terms as if the Church is there as a constraint upon them (and let’s face it, it often is). However, it does reflect the fact that the ministry of the Church needs to be a bigger issue than the ministry of any Minister within it. If we go back to Ephesians 4 – whether our gifts are primarily as pastors, teachers, or whatever, the element of ‘equipping the saints’ is a clear expectation.  

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