Saturday, January 27, 2007

Church Trained or Institution Trained

I saw a video in my seminary class which showed how the gospel spread among a tribal people. The people were taught the Bible and leaders were raised up. Then these tribal people became a sending people. I was reminded how leaders are raised up in the church. The American church culture by and large see the pastor as a professional whose job is to run the church, visit the sick and preach sermons. The pastor is viewed as a person who is a professional. This model of the clergy has him trained by an institution, the seminary.

While seminaries are great places to aid in training pastors, counselors, and missionaries, I see this as a deviation from the New Testament model for training for the ministry. Practically speaking the institution trained model keeps people from doing ministry that they should be doing. Ephesians 2:11-13 tells us that the ministry of the body is to be done by the members of the body and the pastor is a part of a team of equipers.

"11 It was he (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (NIV)

Even if a Christian is convinced that ministry is supposed to happen primarily in the body by the members of the body then you still may think that pastors are supposed to come from the seminary. I would propose a different model for raising up pastors. It is not unique but I feel compelled to write about it any way.

First of all, those who have ministry potential should be identified by the leaders of the congregation. That means elders and pastors need to be constantly observing who has gifts in the congregation.

The second step would be for one of those leader to start giving ministry assignments where the performance there of would either confirm that the person has the right gifts or guide the person away from that sort of ministry. The leader giving the assignment should explain what is to be done, watch it be done, and give feedback on the performance of the assignment. As with the instructions on hair shampoo, 'repeat if necessary'. This process should be as natural to leadership development as breathing. It must be a part of the fabric of a church seeking to train leaders.

The second step done over many tasks and diverse situations constitutes an internship. Most people in a congregation should experience a part of this process. Church leaders, Ruling Elders and Deacons, should all go through an internship with the pastor.

If that person shows potential to be a pastor or missionary, then he should be advised to go to seminary. Most of the time people are directed to go to seminary and then they go through the steps of an internship. This is reverse of what is advisable in my humble opinion.

The only part of this model that would have to be adopted to different cultural situations is the last step of seminary training. The availability of seminary training and the education level at which this is done is dependent upon the culture.

If any of you know of pastors who successfully model this I would greatly appreciate you blogging about it and letting me link to it. Just leave a comment here so I will know to link to it.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Reader's Question: What do I do about a friend who is trying to convert me?

The Questions

I received a question from a reader of this blog. From our discussions it appears to me that the reader does not hold to strong religious beliefs but feels it is fine for others to do so. He has a long time friend who has strong religious beliefs, though not stated explicitly, I think is an enthusiastic, evangelical Christian. The reader says that they have had a great friendship for years with an agreement of some sort to not bring up religious matters. Of late his friend has started trying to influence his beliefs. The reader is now troubled that the rules of the friendship have changed but also troubled that by confronting the issue he will do harm to the friendship. The reader asks, “What do I do with a friend who is trying to influence my religious beliefs when I don't desire this?”

The Answers

Respect and Courtesy Change with Intimacy

It is one thing if a stranger is trying to convert you, it is quite something else if a friend or relative is trying to convert you. A stranger has no bonds of commitment with you except that of common courtesy and respect you should show to all people. It is funny that when you love someone though, by communicating disrespect and familiarity, you may communicate intimacy with someone. I have known some husbands and wives to maintain formal tone with each other. These are usually formal people. I have never known brothers to even think about maintaining a formal relationship. So it is with close friends and family that the rules of what constitutes a private matter and what is up for group discussion is in dispute.

I am a student of such relational tensions and I am convinced that the most common way people deal with such tensions is to shoot each other with verbal darts. Both parties know what the areas in tension are and seek only to say things that would be helpful in maintaining their dignity that they are standing up for their beliefs. While each party in the relationship may hope that they can influence the other side to consider their beliefs, what each party realistically expects to achieve is self respect, that they have not been a coward in discussing their own beliefs. So the belief is stated in a short and poignant way for the sake of self dignity not true persuasion.

The second way I see people attempt to convince a friend regarding his beliefs is through discussion. Often times if beliefs clash this turns into debate, sometimes debate gives way to heated debate and finally arguments. As a student of such tensions I know some people who thrive on a good debate while others cringe at even the suggestion of debating on such a personal subject as one's beliefs. For someone to be comfortable at debating a subject it takes a certain amount of self-confidence and for the debate to not degenerate into an argument, that same person must have respect for the other party in the debate. Often people do not possess self-confidence, and if they do, they don't have respect for their friends and family. It is rare to find both of these qualities in someone. Those who are most self-confident often have the least respect for others and those who have the most respect for others do not share that same respect for themselves. To make a good debate work, these qualities must be alive in both parties.

The third way I see a few people deal with persuading their friends and family is through a monologue that drowns out all voices but its own. This is a variation on the first method of shooting verbal darts at the other party but this time it is a continuous volley that is designed to not only maintain self dignity but also keep a safety buffer between the lonely person who is in this monologuing. (I think it was pointed out in the movie The Incredibles that monologuing is the Achilles heel of all evil villains.) Hopefully the none of you who are reading this have degenerated into a persuasion monologue. Probably not since you are taking the time to read this far. When a person monologues they usually have few friends and their relatives avoid them if they can.

Listening, A Rare Art Form

I am also a student of the art of listening but I think an unsuccessful student. I think unsuccessful because I bring my own agendas and insecurities. As I have gotten older, I have more insecurities but less agendas. Listening on a relational level means one is able to say, “I have heard my friend's point of view so that he is assured that he and his beliefs are respected.” The temptation here is to listen in order to quite your friend's point of view rather than hear it. The difference is intuitively noticed by body language, tone of speech and responses.

There is the temptation to think that the American etiquette of not bringing up religion or politics is a transcendent value. It is in fact not. American's, from a pragmatic point of view, deal with religious pluralism by not discussing it. In reality this is a temporary solution always. Sooner or later if one take his religious views seriously so that it affects the way one lives, there will be some sort of public statement about religion, even if it is that there is no one religion. While we stave off the inevitable discussion of religion and values, we as Americans live in our private lonely lives. Or we could deviate from this value and listen to one another. Lonesome, private and disconnected lives are the staple of our social existence. It is not because we don't express ourselves, it is just because we don't listen to anyone else.

So I'm proposing that true respect and spiritual growth comes from listening. Even if you don't adopt the views of your friend, you have weighed them seriously. You have touched a life. You have kept a friend. I would be highly surprised if you listen to them with respect, courtesy and true engagement of the intellect that they would then find it a condition of the friendship that you adopt their point of view. I think instead your friend will appreciate the weight of the consideration that you have given their view. I have found friendship with people whose views were quite different from mine. One of the best friendships I have had was during college a Muslim friend named Imad from Kuwait. I lost contact with Imad after college but I listened to him and I think he to me. I am not a Muslim and he is not a Christian. I am richer for having heard what he had to say. I hope he is richer for having been my friend in college.

Approach the Change With Optimism

I think one of your concerns is that your friend has changed the rules of your friendship over time. One could be a pessimist about this and say that your friend did not act in good faith. He in fact has been waiting for quite some time just to pounce on you years later. I seriously doubt this. I think more preferable is the more optimistic position, that your friend has changed and grown. He is not at the same maturity level that he was years ago. There is a conviction that those who believe in revelation usually share. That is that they feel a conviction to share their faith. It is often a source of great frustration, fear and guilt to not the share light that one has obtained. It is a duty for Christians to share their faith. Few wish to offend, but I know I have often offended others when I have attempted to share my faith. My guess is that your friend does not seek offend you but has read in the Bible that he has an obligation to share his faith. While those types of motivations are mostly negative, the best motivations to share one's faith is simply like one beggar telling another where a free meal can be found. It is not a source of power or achievement but simply help to the other beggar. I hope it is not that case that your friend is seeking to dominant you by sharing his faith with you. Even if there is an element of power play in the relational dynamic, I think he would be embarrassed if he looked in the mirror saw himself as domineering. If he is being domineering, I would just be honest about it. Explain that dynamic of the friendship respectfully and with great patience. If he does not hear you, perhaps he needs to grow more as a friend and you can help him grow in that way.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Challies Dot Com: Book Review - The Perfect Thing

I got an iPod for Christmas. I put it on my Christmas list just like each year a put jacuzzi. (My wife does not want a jacuzzi at all. She sees it as another thing that would have to be maintained and she is right on that. I put it on my list each year though right above tazar.) But she called my bluff this year and bought me something on my ridiculous list. I will have to be careful or I will get something else that I thought was really out of bounds. So Tim Challes has reviewed a book on the iPod that I want to link to here below.

Challies Dot Com: Book Review - The Perfect Thing: "People looked at me in a strange way when I told them I was reading a 300-page book about the iPod. 'No, seriously. It's a whole book about the iPod!' Steven Levy, author of The Perfect Thing is senior editor and chief technology correspondent for Newsweek magazine and the author of five previous books. Levy is a technophile and over the course of his career has seen many products, many technologies, come and go."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Predictors of Successful Leadership

Jack Yoest at Reasoned Audacity recently wrote an excellent article celebrating his son's participation sports and giving a tip on how to understand a potential applicant's leadership ability.

There is some quibbling with this a little over at the Jollyblogger regarding where that leaves those who are less gifted athletically when it comes to leadership.

I'm not sure what the phrase "best predictor of successful leadership" really means. For some folks it could mean that they don't understand any kind of leadership except that which is expressed in cleats. For other people I would get the sense it means that they feel a camaraderie with those who are likewise athletes and so would trust their judgment since they are a part of the 'club'. For these folks who are looking for a certain status and bravado, they will find it when discussing sports quickly. For others I think the phrase would mean that sports is a great laboratory for seeing how people think in certain situations, to see how to others respond to their leadership, to see how they endure pain, to see if they give up, to see if they can be trusted when things are tough, to see if they can win graciously and loose just as graciously. Of course there are other ways to do that besides sports but sports is one area of life that allows people to be measured and it is supposed to be okay. Sports is an area of life that ranking is endured and encouraged without hurt feelings. We create an objective standard by which we judge one another. In other areas of achievement, the standards are often subjective.

If you are looking for a way to learn about a person, sports might be a good topic to bring up in a job interview. If the person did not participate in sports, then ask what their passions were (are). Ask where and how they learned leadership.

There are many people who are excellent athletes but poor leaders. There are many good leaders who are poor athletes. But a great leader may have learned their leadership by participating in a team with a loosing streak a mile long.

King David learned about leadership in other laboratories of life. He looked after sheep and played music. The shepherd job taught him how to fight a dangerous adversary. He learned God is the one who gives success in battle (or a fight with a bear). He learned how to use his sling. By playing music he learned how to be alone with the Lord. He also learned how to communicate to others the heart of the Lord. Who would have thought of these as training grounds for kingship?

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

A bunch o' Questions from the Jollyblogger

The Jolly man tagged me with the meme. I like memes and hardly ever think thier trite because simple questions to reveal a lot.
Here is the meme I received from the Jollyblogger.

1)What's the most fun work you've ever done, and why? (two sentences max)

Participating in exercises in the Army where you shoot at the your opponent with a laser, sort of like laser tag. It is fun because you get to run around, use quick on your feet mental tactics and understand strategy.

2)A. Name one thing you did in the past that you no longer do but wish you did? (one sentence max)

Play saxophone in a jazz band.

B. Name one thing you've always wanted to do but keep putting it off? (one sentence max)

Be a missionary to an unreached people group.

3)A. What two things would you most like to learn or be better at, and why? (two sentences max)

I would like to grow great vegetables that I could give to others. I would like to connect to people better.

B. If you could take a class/workshop/apprentice from anyone in the world living or dead, who would it be and what would you hope to learn? (two more sentences, max)

I would like to take a philosophy of religion class with Dr. Francis Schaffer.

4)A. What three words might your best friends or family use to describe you?

I'm not sure who I am actually is how friends or family would describe me.
Windy (As in talkative)

B. Now list two more words you wish described you...


5) What are your top three passions? (can be current or past, work, hobbies, or causes-- three sentences max)

See the unreached peoples come to Christ.
To raise godly children.

6) (sue me) Write--and answer--one more question that YOU would ask someone (with answer in three sentences max)

What was happening in your life when you began to trust in Christ?

[Bonus: What is one question you wish people would ask themselves?]

Are you really spending your time doing things that matter?

Tag your it!:
Red Haired Homeschool Mom
Music Grrrl
Complete Madness
Flying Horses 14

I'm hoping that each of you will tag someone else too.