Is God calling me?



(Something to read if you’ve been nominated to serve)
What does it mean to be called to ministry. When I was in high school, I felt called into the ministry. What that meant for me – and for most people I know – was that I was called to be an ‘ordained minister’ in the church. To be a ‘pastor’, to be ‘clergy’, to be a ‘minister of the word and sacraments’. I put all those words in quotes because I am uncomfortable with all of them now. I believe we have distorted the original meaning of these words. As a result many disciples are confused about their own calling as disciples. Are they called to ministry too, and how does their ministry relate to mine?

Clarifying terms
Let me begin by defining some terms. To be ‘ordained’ is to be appointed and anointed by God for a specific task in His kingdom mission. Although the church has restricted that term to a special class of workers (clergy), I see all disciples as equally ordained by God for their tasks, just different tasks. The tasks may differ, but the ordination by the Spirit is the same. Continue reading ‘Is God calling me?’ »

No evangelism committee needed!?



In most of the churches I have served there has been an Evangelism (or Outreach) Committee. This team of dedicated christians worked to help the church share the message of Jesus with their community. They did things like:

  • buy tracts for members to share with their neighbours
  • set up a booth at the local fair to hand out information and a free gift
  • organized a community event (like a Fun Fair or BBQ)
  • hosted ‘how to share your faith’ workshops or classes
  • planned an annual ‘Bring a Friend’ Sunday

What struck me about these opportunities was that for the most part it was always the same people participating: those who were serving on the team, and those who already had a heart for sharing their faith. In addition, the numbers were usually small, the results difficult to measure, and the team was usually frustrated that no one else came out to help.

I would like to consider the possibility that a church should not have an Evangelism Committee. As I see it, I wonder if having such a committee actually works against mobilizing christians for sharing their faith. Continue reading ‘No evangelism committee needed!?’ »

Disciple-making at the work

“We are discipling people every day in our work—as we treat a customer with respect, help out a coworker with his or tasks, respect the boss even when others grumble behind his back, seek justice in the way we do our business, make the workplace a more peaceful place to be, offer to go the extra mile to get the work done and done right, etc. How are you making disciples by the way you do your work?” (Alan Hirsch)

Is faith disconnected from everyday life?



In Robert Banks’s groundbreaking book, Redeeming the Routines, he identifies the enormous gap between belief and everyday life. He points out that this gap shows up in ten worrying ways:

  1. Few of us apply or know how to apply our belief to our work, or lack of work.
  2. We only make minimal connections between our faith and our spare time activities.
  3. We have little sense of a Christian approach to regular activities like domestic chores.
  4. Our everyday attitudes are partly shaped by the dominant values of our society.
  5. Many of our spiritual difficulties stem from the daily pressure we experience (lack of time, exhaustion, family pressures, etc.).
  6. Our everyday concerns receive little attention in the church.
  7. Only occasionally do professional theologians address routine activities.
  8. When addressed, everyday issues tend to be approached too theoretically.
  9. Only a minority of Christians read religious books or attend theological courses.
  10. Most churchgoers reject the idea of a gap between their beliefs and their ways of life.

Worship starts with God


“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!'” (Luke 1:39-45)

When I grew up in church, I was taught that God was the starting point of the worship. Our gatherings began with God’s invitation (call to worship) to which we responded with silent prayer. God announced His blessing to which we responded with an AMEN and a praise song. The rest of the service went on like that: God speaks, we respond.

This pattern is, I believe, rooted in both creation and in our own DNA. This world, and humans, were designed to respond to God’s gracious self-disclosure. As we experience God’s greatness or goodness, that experience provokes a response within us: wow, thank You, awesome, yikes, oh my, etc. Continue reading ‘Worship starts with God’ »

Seeing Jesus! (#2)



“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:42-45)

Seeing Jesus! (1)



“For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:42-45)

Pastoral Care in the Church (4)



BUILDING SOMETHING GOOD WILL TAKE TIME
Developing effective pastoral care in the church is somewhat like the challenge Jesus faced when He came to earth and needed to raise up missional leaders for His kingdom movement. His approach was to prayerfully select a few potential leaders and fully invest Himself in them, training them to become the leaders they needed to be. This model of equipping disciples to be leaders is the basis for leadership in the church in general. I would also use this model for raising up pastoral care leaders in the church.

This will take time. We cannot just design a complete model and implement it. In the beginning we may not have enough people willing to serve in pastoral care. Some may not realize their gifts. Some may have been burned in previous pastoral roles. Some may lack confidence. Most will need training. We cannot rush this. Better to start with a few and do the job well, rather than push people before they are ready. Continue reading ‘Pastoral Care in the Church (4)’ »

Pastoral Care in the Church (3)



INTRODUCING THE HOME VISIT
Our church tradition has long encouraged the ‘home visit’ as a model of pastoral care. According to the original church order (it is changed today): ‘Pastoral Care shall be exercised over all the members of the congregation. The minister of the Word and the elders shall conduct annual home visitation.’ Family or house visitation was when teams of two elders would personally visit the home of a church member or family to discuss the spiritual vitality of their Christian life and the life of the church. A home visit was intended to strengthen the spiritual lives of the congregation, to challenge their worship and witness or service, and to promote and encourage the fellowship or communion of the saints in the church.

BENEFITS OF THE HOME VISIT
The home visit could be very positive and encouraging to both the family and the church — when it was led by gifted Elders, when it was well-received by the members, and when the relationship between church and family was positive. Under these conditions, the home visit had some benefits, such as: Continue reading ‘Pastoral Care in the Church (3)’ »

Pastoral Care in the Church (2)


EARLY CHURCH METHODS OF PASTORAL CARE
We do not know all of the ways that the early church cared for God’s sheep (Acts 20:28). But we do catch a glimpse of some of their methods. In the first decades after Pentecost, pastoral care had to evolve with the expansion of the church. With the explosion of growth on Pentecost, a pattern of care and sharing emerged. Along with their mutual worship, learning and fellowship, they also shared resources so that everyone’s needs were met (Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-37). When a concern was raised about the Greek widows being overlooked, the apostles put in place a “care team” of qualified disciples to look after the food distribution (Acts 6:1-6). The church leaders were urged to teach and equip disciples in the Jesus Way, and also to discipline those who were straying away from Jesus (1 Corinthians 5). The churches took up benevolence offerings to help other churches (2 Corinthians 8:1-7,18-20). Continue reading ‘Pastoral Care in the Church (2)’ »