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    Entries in Scot McKnight (5)


    What Is the Role of the Pastor?


    Scot McKnight has been carrying on a brilliant exchange with Mark Stevens of Australia on the calling and role of the pastor. The impetus that set this conversation in motion is the challenge of the megachurch to the vocation and current embodiment of the role of the pastor, and because I have been both nurtured within and am currently a member of a megachurch, I found these words pertinent. I have also served as a "pastor" within the large church context, though not in the senior leadership role. I know firsthand the pressures of being "visionary", or leading successful programs, of applied analytics that seem to be more numerically abstract than concrete and fleshy. I think that it is very difficult to be in a large church context and remain a pastor, rather than an entrepreneurial visionary leader of a religious enterprise. Not impossible, but very difficult.

    Stevens advocates a "Petersonian" perspective on the pastorate, and in his correspondence with McKnight, draws insight from Eugene Peterson's works The Pastor and Working the Angles (if Andy Rowell's correction in the comments is on point), both to great effect. Leaning on Peterson, Stevens names the three primary aspects of pastoral vocation as:

    1. Prayer,
    2. Scripture,
    3. and Spiritual Direction.

    "But of course!", you might say. Pastors should pray. They should read and study and know Scripture inside and out and help us to hear its words rightly and truthfully in our particular cultural moment. And yes, they should help us tend to our own souls, if indeed we have one, and encourage us along the path as we grow in maturity to Christ. Of course this is the role of the pastor.

    But as I've said above, the large church does not always concern itself, primarily, with prayer, Scripture, and spiritual direction. Oftentimes it is programs, soaring attendance, and strategic planning, done in a way devoid of spiritual energy; fueled by business acumen. Shepherding a soul is not the same thing as herding bodies through programs. Numerical growth is not always indicative of spiritual growth. And strategic planning can, at times, depart from the call of congregational faithfulness and move toward the achievement of personal ambition, particularly for that of the senior leader.

    Senior leaders, or pastors, of large congregations can fall prey to the temptation to establish themselves in a pastoral career, rather than within a pastoral vocation. Looking forward to the next generation of pastoral leaders, I have expressed this very concern at Resurrection, albeit quietly, when considering the name of our pastoral discernment program for students, "MAC Track", or "Ministry as Career". Here is Stevens on the subtle nuance between vocation and career, and the discreet way the latter can overwhelm the former:

    The truth is there is no blue-print for being a pastor. The circumstances and call of each pastor and their ministry are as unique as the person themselves. Nevertheless, those who are called to lead the church are called to be shepherds of God’s people. My concern is with how the pastoral vocation is conceived of, developed and understood. It is easy for most of us to give lip service to what it means to be a faithful parson when in reality what we do and what we are taught to do is pursue careers. We plan, we build we call people to follow us and our vision for God’s church. I just don’t think this is what it means to be faithful. It maybe how the world defines faithfulness to a c[a]reer but I don’t see it as faithful pastoral practice.

    Being a pastor is not a career, it is a calling. And on this occasion, I would contend "but it is both!" will not do.

    Being a pastor is a response to the voice of God to serve in a role that is unique within the community of those who believe in and call upon Jesus Christ as Lord. The role of that person is to cultivate an environment where the Word of God can be heard in the proclamation and reading of Holy Scripture, where the voice of God can be heard in the stillness, and where the Spirit of God can blow where it wills, propelling the sails of the great ark of salvation in whatsoever direction it deems faithful and best. All the while, the pastor prays for his people and teaches them to pray. The pastor listens to the people and helps the people listen to God. And the pastor witnesses to Jesus and points the people towards Christ.

    Churches do not need more religious employees, those making a career out of regulating the machinations of spiritual gizmos. The church needs more pastors, those who have gotten in to the life of God, and by their very lives compel us likewise to get in to it and get in on it, to get a glimpse of the glory and to chase it forever, because there is nothing more beautiful, nothing more satisfying.

    Like Stevens (please read his post), I do not think that the megachurch is devoid of value within the Kingdom. But I do think that it is a place filled with its own unique temptations and blind spots, and considering it is a rather recent phenomenon in world Christianity, I doubt we have yet discerned the extent of spiritual maladies that lurk within our midst. Careful discernment, and careful application of Christian wisdom is advised, as it would be in any small parish. And to discern and apply best, we will need pastors willing to shepherd the souls entrusted to their care, to pray, to immerse themselves in Scripture, and to offer us spiritual direction that helps us to better follow after Jesus.


    Baylor's New Uniforms :: Radioactive; Turned PJ3 Into Godzilla Yesterday


    Baylor men's basketball faced off against the Kansas State Wildcats yesterday, winning 82-74 on day two of the Big XII tournament.  I tuned in, and like so many others, was awestruck by the Bears "highlighter" uniforms.  PJ3 played "upper-case", scoring 31 points and grabbing 11 rebounds--his best performance I have witnessed at Baylor.  I hope he can keep it up as tournament play continues.

    During the game yesterday, Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star asked for reactions to the uniforms on Twitter, and I'm glad to say I was quoted this morning in the paper.  Here is my quote:

    You can view the rest of the article here.

    Scot McKnight also expressed his love for them on Facebook.  I'm glad to have him on the Baylor bandwagon.

    Baylor plays Kansas today, having been embarrassed by the Jayhawks twice this year.  I hoping for a Baylor win, though many of my neighbors are pulling for a KU vs. MU rematch for the final.

    Go Bears!


    From One Way of Being to the Next 


    See More From Santi MB on Flickr!

    Conversion.  Some are repulsed by the idea.  But if this is so in your case, you have, at some time in your life, been converted.  You've been converted to the idea that conversion is a repulsive idea.

    I love the idea of conversion.  I have been converted.  In fact, many times over, to many different things.  There is one key "conversion" which has marked my life significantly, and that has been in turning the keys of my kingdom over to Jesus and his Kingdom.  But apart from that very significant and very deep experience, I have been converted to different ways of thinking and seeing the world, different affiliations and different relationships.  Conversion has been very much a part of my experience.  It is a part of everyone's experience.  Moving from one way of being to the next is part of the journey we call life.

    Conversion is an important idea, and it is a reality everyone must face.  In the Christian world, there have been many different ways to think about conversion, and many different approaches have been embodied by different denominations and local churches concerning exactly how people are converted, or brought from one way of being to the next.  Scot McKnight, in his book Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels, outlines these different approaches quite well, and turning to the gospels and to the life of Jesus, examines exactly how these conceptions of conversion match with the life and teachings of the one Christian people call Lord.

    McKnight, in the early stages of his book names three distinct ways conversion is regarded in many churches: socialization, liturgical process, and personal decision.  Each are important, and as I have gotten to know many Christian people across many different traditions, it seems as though one way of being converted is more germane to  one tradition than to another.  In my particular tradition, personal decision was paramount.  For my wife, she was socialized into the life of the church, and over time came to deeper and deeper understandings of her faith in Jesus Christ.  We have both been converted, but our conversions look very different.

    How does your church think about conversion?  Does it at all?  Even if conversion is not named, how does the church seem to expect people to become followers of Jesus Christ?  Are people socialized, brought in through liturgy, or is some kind of personal decision expected?

    One of the great insights of McKnight's book is that not all people come to faith the same way, and not all churches should take a singular view in their understanding of conversion.  Every effort should be made to create space where there is a personal call to conversion, where people are socialized into the church, and where, liturgically, all can participate.  Even though I am sure to stress personal decision, it is also true that people are "born from above" in different ways.

    If you're really interested in conversion, pick up McKnight's book.  At the very least, think about how you, or your church, thinks about conversion, and use that as a map to chart your own experiences, as well as the experiences of those around you.


    The Ancient Practices Series :: Scot McKnight's Fasting

    Spiritual disciplines?  The formation of souls?  Training exercises?  In recent years there seems to have been a surge in emphasis on ancient practices and their role in Christ-like growth, and I believe this is a good thing.  

    I recently wrapped up Scot McKnight's Fasting, a volume in Thomas Nelson's Ancient Practices Series.  I'll share a few brief thoughts about the book.

    First, and perhaps most importantly, McKnight challenges the common presupposition that fasting is about obtaining results, and instead offers that the Bible and the Christian tradition teaches us rather that fasting is a natural, inevitable response to a grievous sacred moment.  We do not fast to obtain something, but we fast in order to bring our bodies into contact with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He describes fasting as a movement from (A) the grievous sacred moment (death, sin, fear, threats, needs, sickness) to (B) fasting, and then finally to (C) response (life, forgiveness, safety, hope, answers, health).  But again and again, through the book, McKnight offers his readers the constant reminder that fasting is not about what some will receive in choosing to fast, as though we could control God through the exercise of discipline, but that fasting is a healthy, human expression of embodied spirituality that properly orients us toward the Divine when we are faced with hardship.

    McKnight's book is filled with numerous biblical and historical examples of how fasting has been utilized and understood.  McKnight identifies how fasting is a proper response to sinfulness, is a helpful expression of solidarity with the poor and oppressed, commonly undertaken to express grief, and can be utilized to discipline the body.  He warns against some of the common errors that can occur when one fasts, including hypocrisy, legalism, and meritoriousness.  He also directly addresses some of the health related questions and concerns that surround fasting.

    As someone who is trying to further develop an understanding of Christian spiritual disciplines both in order to teach and more faithfully practice, McKnight's book provided many helpful insights.  I'd say it is worth checking out.


    Bible. Not Business Leadership Books.

    Photo Credit: RVing Gal via Flickr

    Check out this blog post from Scot McKnight, "The Evangelical Flip and a Call for a Conference."  McKnight writes:

    Evangelical pastors have flipped in the last generation. 30-40 years ago what most incited excitement was a new book by the arch-pastor and expositor, John Stott, expositing a New Testament book or a J.I. Packer book on theology. Today's evangelicals pastors are enamored with the latest book on leadership, like that morsel of an idea in the book called Tribes, or the latest book on management, or the latest fad in creativity. 

    These are often pastors who, if we were to ask them what is in some Old Testament book or some chapter in Ephesians, to take two soundings, would not know what we were talking about.

    When good pastors or good scholars come out with insightful expositions of pastoral leadership, and stick to what the Bible says or even plumb the depths of some of the great books on pastoral leadership -- like Pope Gregory, we see almost no interest.

    So let me say this: (too many) evangelical leaders have become too enamored with management skills and techniques and have neglected the nitty-gritty of soaking themselves in the great texts of the Old and the New Testament.

    We need a conference, at some church, devoted to one thing: two days of exposition of key biblical texts on pastoral theology and ministry. And no one can bring up a modern management or leadership expert; and no publisher or book table present can sell anything but commentaries.

    Who will host it? Who wants to know what the Bible says?

    McKnight is spot on here, I think.  Watch this video from The Nines.  I'm not saying that Scott Wilson doesn't know and teach the Bible, but I think it strengthens McKnight's case.

    My observations of many church leaders match this assessment of our situation, as it appears that using the latest marketing fad or technique, the trendiest bit of technology, or the hottest leadership approach outweighs our urgency in matters of right doctrine and teaching, knowing the biblical story, and discipling people in the way of Jesus.  Discipling people, maturing people is hard.  So is building a successful organization.  But one has more tangible metrics than the other, and thus the temptation is to build a good organization, rather than to always ensure that we are moving people forward and focusing on mission, all while remaining innovative.

    With that being said, I recognize that there is benefit from reading business, marketing, and leadership books.   I do this all the time.  My title clearly overstates the case.  But in this instance, the case needs overstating.  I want to meet more people who have internalized the narrative of Scripture and know how to contextualize God's salvific work for our world today, providing direction, vision, and answers for our world that is consistent with both the words of the Bible and the best of our historic, theological reflection.  Seth Godin is great, and I've read Jim Collins.  They have things to teach us.  But we have to know our story, the story of Scripture, if we are to best incorporate those truths we learn from other sources into faithful ecclesial practice.