Saturday, July 17, 2004

More Thoughts on Ordination

The more I think about ordination, the more I scratch my head and wonder. Brad Sargent of the futuristguy blog commented on ordination:
i agree - everyone ought to be ordained as an affirmation of their calling, gifts, and spiritual maturity level to handle what they're doing.  those kinds of public rituals are more common in non-Western countries, but if we want to be ancient-future, we basically leave out such rites of passage and communal recognitions.
On the one hand, I think of ordination as divisive.  In the minds of many it exalts the ordained.  Isn't setting apart individuals in the body like exalting the the ear of a mule while the rest of its body does the work. Doesn't ordination impair or prohibit a truly organic church?
On the other hand, I think human nature craves some order and pageantry in its religious expression.  And I think in a tradition like the baptist tradition with minimal liturgical expressions, ordination feeds that need.
Maybe part of the problem I have with ordination is that the import of ordination is minimal.  Since we are all priests and have equal access to God, I have a problem with elevating one person over another.  The Bible says in Acts that the early church had everything in common.  Does that mean everything except status in the church?  Yes, we all have different giftings and roles, but none is more important than another.  We serve to serve God!  So, I think I have an idea of how I'd like to see ordination. 
I'd like to see everyone serving in a specific ministry ordained for a period of time (equal to the duration of the service).  Let's set them apart while they are serving so that the congregation knows who they are and they have a concret reminder of a specific responsibility to the church.  Let's provide a means of accountability for what they are doing when they are doing it, but not for perpetuity.  Let each church ordain its ministers and servants so that the church agrees to support the ministers and be held accountable, and the ministers agree to serve as God called and be held accountable. 

Friday, July 16, 2004

"God put you in my way. I have no choice."
I  just finished watching a movie, "The Four Feathers."  I won't get into a review of it, there are plenty on the net.  What I want to reflect on is the quote above.  In the movie a Muslim man, Abou, finds a half-dead British man, Harry, unconscious in the Sudanese desert.  He eventually tells the Brit that he is helping him because God put in his way.  The two ultimately become friends, but because God fated their meeting, Abou spends most of the movie covering Harry's backside.
While i don't believe in fate, I think my pastor hit the nail on the head this week when he said that God is more active in the world than we think.  I firmly believe God tests us in our circumstance, and how we respond speaks volumes to our character.  As an example, let me tell you about Travon.  I met Travon tonight.  He offered to wash my windows when I pulled into Taco Cabana.  I let him wash my windows and chatted with him a while.  I found out today is Travon's birthday and that he can usually be found at Taco Cabana late night.  I can't help but wonder if God put him in my way for a reason, so I have a choice to make.  I think I'm going to go with the I can't help it, God put him in my way attitude, and I think the church as whole needs to realize God does put people in our way, not for us to push to the side, but for us to minister Christ's love to them.
Look around.  Who has God put in your way?
I edited the title because I re watched the movie, and I wanted to get the quote right.

The Locust
  It may seem a little odd, but I think god spoke to me today through a locust.  I've been stressing about my job, lack of funds, the up coming move, and school.  I've been very insecure in my faith concerning God's promised provision even though He has faithfully sustained my family for years.  Tonight was no different.  I was delivering pizzas and worrying.  i'd love to say God popped a word of wisdom from the Bible in my head, but no, God put a locust on my car.  it was buzing and bumping into my car topper when I got out of the car on a delivery, and it was still there when i got back in the car.  That's when it hit me.  Locusts are the instruments of God.  Normally, they are viewed as a plague on the enemies of God in the bible.  But plagues on the enemies of God are also sustainence for the godly.
  1. God freed the Hebrew people, partially by using locusts
  2. God declared the locust as an acceptable food source in Leviticus
  3. John the baptist ate locusts and wild honey in the wilderness

The locust is God's provision to His children, and when I realized that, peace came over me.  God has always sustained my family.  He has always been faithful when I am obedient, and sometimes when I'm not.  i know He will be faithful now, and I know He has full control.  Thanks God for the locust.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I simply could not resist.....
The following is a snip-it from the Social ministries page of the website of the Abilene Baptist Association. Normally I wouldn't do something like this, but when I saw these typos i had to.
This ministry in its 14th year continues to monister to varying needs of hurting families whom Jesus referred to as the "lease of these." He said service to them is service to Him

(emphasis is mine)
So as I read it, when we lease the marginal and poor we do service to Christ. "Jesus approves of endentured servanthood!"

Would someone please correct this.

Ordination and the Emerging Church

I've been a licensed Baptist minister for a number of years now. In the Baptist church that really isn't saying much. There are no hierarchical rules that must be followed to be licensed, and a license is not necessary to serve in a church. Actually, I was licensed by my first pastorate after I had served in the position for 6 months, and then primarily for tax reasons.

The IRS requires licensing or ordaining if a minister is going to take advantage of the tax breaks available to the clergy. Normally, ordination would be required, but the tax law is a little loose in its reading and allows for licensing if there is no significant difference in the duties performed by persons holding a license and ordained clergy. Since there is no significant difference in Baptist culture, and the church I served in had no ordained people in it, licensing was the route taken.

Now, here I am some years later. I am still only licensed and I serve as a teaching pastor in our small congregation. In a month, I will be moving to Abilene and away from anyone with any knowledge of my faith journey. As a going away present, a parting gift, the church in which I serve is going to ordain me because I asked them to (actually, they offered when i was initially hired and I finally accepted the offer). So why did I ask after all this time?
1. To help establish credibility as a minister, because some people must see that piece of paper

2. Because I love the name of our church, Christ's Church, and would rather read that on an ordination certificate than So and so Baptist Church.

3. Because I want the people who helped to form me as a Christian to be able to share in the experience

For some reason, these all seem like selfish reasons, but in the Baptist tradition God ordains and calls His ministers. Ordination from a local body serves to confirm more than anything else. So why do we continue to ordain? With or without the paper for the wall, I will continue to proclaim the gospel. That is what I am called to do. Why do I feel compelled to have paper credibility when I already have credibility and confirmation of my call. It has been prophesied over me (It was prophesied over me as a baby by an uncle who pastors in a different denomination, and I wasn't told of this until after I responded to God's call). It was confirmed by the church that commissioned my family and sent us out to our first pastorate. It was confirmed by my first pastorate when they licensed me, and it is regulary confirmed by the church I currently serve in when the pastor gives up his pulpit to allow me to preach 2 or more times a month. it makes me wonder..

So what is my point? I'm not sure other than to ask the question what role will ordination serve in the emerging church? Is formal ordination going to lend credibility to leaders who are being judged on their authenticity and transparency? Or, will formal ordination become even more ornamental as denominational walls are blurred and skewed? (The picture above is, in a sense, the ordination of seth woods as a minister in the Mosaic Austin Faith Community) I don't know, but I would love to hear/read what ya'll think. In the mean time, I guess I'll try to figure out my situation.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

A heartbreaking finish to a great escape. Picture is from the official Tour de France web site.

Thoughts on Toxicity and the Organic Church

Futuristguy's blog the other day inspired me and I spent a lot of time working over the idea of organicism in the church. I'll admit that due to a background that includes a great deal of biology I probably see the concept of organic church differently, but it made me think about the function of ecosystems in nature. And that lead to a protracted metaphor which served as fodder for my first sermon/teaching for the month of July. The gist of it is that the church is an ecosystem, and as such, it must be viewed as a whole and not as individual parts. That said, the parts which make up the whole serve the same types of functions as organisms in an ecosystem, and each helps to filter the ecosystem in order to maintain it. We share the burdens of the whole in order to maintain a healthy body. Below are some exerpts from the teaching which was centered on Galatians 6.

As I thought about Brad’s ideas of toxicity and the organic church, I started thinking about science and ecosystems. As living organisms we exist in an ecosystem and all organisms in an ecosystem are effected by the toxins in their given ecosystem. ie, oysters and red tide, lead and mercury in shell fish… God created the world as a natural filter. The toxins in an ecosystem are spread out so that the ecosystem survives. If too many toxins build up, balance is thrown off and parts of the ecosystem die and the system changes forever. The church is an ecosystem and as such, we must share the toxins that infect our ecosystem.

We have a responsibility as members of the body to share in the burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to work to restore the one’s who fall. But the church today does not do that. The church today back bites, gossips, and casts the fallen faithful out without a chance for reconciliation. The church does not see the body of the bride holistically. The church sees the body as an individual collection of parts. We worry about the finger, or the thumb or the big toe we, are but we don’t worry about the parts we’re not

. We have not only the ability to make changes in the world for the kingdom. We’ve been charged with that task. We are to go out and make disciples. Not merely robots who believe or say they believe, but functioning toes and fingers and nephrons and teeth; viable parts of blameless bride. We are supposed to be filters of the toxins helping to make the world a better place to live.

And I finished my teaching with this song which I learned from a missionary in Kansas City Missouri:

Brother let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace to
Let you be my servant too

We are pilgrims on a journey
We are travelers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load

I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we see the journey through

I will hold the Christ Light for you
In the night time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
And speak the peace you long to hear

When we sing to God in heaven,
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony

Sister let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I might have the grace to
Let you be my servant too.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Where my modernity and emergence meet

Sometimes I feel like a walking ball of confusion. Part of me is grounded firmly in modernity, while part of me is caught up in the attitudes of emerging culture. I offer this as an example: I am a teaching pastor in a small church. The services are forever evolving (the pastor believes change should be constant). My duties are simple. I preach twice a month, and fill the pulpit as necessary for the pastor. The church is mostly tradional; the pastor is mostly fundamentalist, and I find myself teaching a church body that, while early in life as a congregation, has been together for years in a previous congregation. My "audience" (for lack of a better word) expects tradional types of sermons (3 points and a poem as we say in baptist life). However, my heart is not that of a traditional preacher. I believe in the power of narrative. I teach in simile and metaphor, and I fill my messasages/lessons with illustrations; yet I find myself ending with propositional thought. No matter how hard I try to minimize the propositional aspects of my teaching, there it is. The modern subverting the emerging thought process.

How can I see the dangers of propositional preaching in emerging culture, and still preach propositionally? It's like a curse. I've been programmed to break down everything to its basic elements and then reconstruct it. How can I become more holistic in my views? How do I get beyond the mental ascent to a narrative, holistic theology, to the practice of a narrative, holistic theology? How do I stop talking about a social gospel and start living a social gospel? How do I, as a soon to be seminary student at a school that has high church tendencies, find my way into a street church mentality and life? To be honest, I don't know and it scares me. All I know is that I feel compelled by God to faithfully follow Him down a road that is dark, and where He's only shining a light a few cobbles ahead. All I know is that I must step into that darkness.