pastor or leader

Keith Giles has a good post about the conflation of the concepts and tasks of pastor and leader such that we think they mean the same thing.  He writes in part:

Beyond the obvious misuse of the word, the real danger is that we’ve completely redefined the verb “to pastor” so that it no longer has anything to do with loving people, caring for them, serving them, feeding them, strengthening them, making sure they are spiritually healthy, or anything remotely close to what a “shepherd” would do to take care of the sheep. Instead, we have reduced the term “shepherd” or “pastor” into the most narrow function – leadership.

I think Keith is absolutely right, and honestly, I think this is why so many “pastors” are burning out of ministry never to return.  The church current addiction to the notion of pastor as a “strong leader” (usually this is code for controlling).  Its also because of the commitment of most churches to the “extrovert ideal” that you read about in Susan Cain’s book Quiet.  Unless someone in the pastoral vocation is a “strong leader” (aka: an extroverted control freak) then we think he or she is not too good a pastor – so then, to even get work, many are forced to continually operate outside their personality and giftings to the point that they burn out.

Now I want to be careful here – this is not to say the pastoral vocation does not involve elements of leadership – in truth, we are all leaders, we all lead each other in various ways and the pastor/shepherd leads the sheep pointing them to Christ.  It’s just that I think we need to keep in mind more biblical models of leadership as seen in the life of Moses, David, Paul, even Christ himself in how we both understand and do leadership in a pastoral context.  This is not to say current models of corporate business world aspects of leadership are not applicable, but I think they need to be subordinated to the biblical models.  For a good book on spiritual leadership and the pastoral ministry consider Reggie McNeil’s book: A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders (Joesy-Bass).  Additionally, the best book out there on Christian leadership is Henri Nouwen’s book In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (Crossroad).


QOTD: Carson on Philippians

basicsThe Kindle edition of Don Carson’s book, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Baker Academic), is on a temporary $4 sale.

Here is a good quote from chapter one (worth the price of the $4 Kindle edition alone).

I would like to buy about three dollars worth of gospel, please. Not too much— just enough to make me happy, but not so much that I get addicted. I don’t want so much gospel that I learn to really hate covetousness and lust. I certainly don’t want so much that I start to love my enemies, cherish self-denial, and contemplate missionary service in some alien culture. I want ecstasy, not repentance; I want transcendence, not transformation. I would like to be cherished by some nice, forgiving, broad-minded people, but I myself don’t want to love those from different races— especially if they smell. I would like enough gospel to make my family secure and my children well behaved, but not so much that I find my ambitions redirected or my giving too greatly enlarged. …

Carson, D. A. (1996-04-01). Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Kindle Locations 44-50). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I preached through a large part of Philippians when we were at the Grand Canyon and it sure was a challenging book to say the least!  I think its one that every church needs to go through verse by verse.  It so integral to the life and health of the congregation – what can be more important that building one another up in the faith and promoting unity for the sake of the gospel??  But and However, in order to get to that place, most congregations have a lot of work to do – you know – work out their salvation with fear and trembling.  No, silly, not trying to earn one’s salvation but learn to work out personal differences and setting aside personal agendas and following the model of Christ himself, the humble obedient servant, the one who’s attitude we must emulate if the gospel is going to impact not just our communities and the world, but also our own community of faith and our own hearts.  

That bears repeating – the ONLY WAY the gospel will go forth in our own hearts and in our own communities, really and truly, is for each person and for the whole congregation to take on the attitude of Christ, becoming humble obedient servants – to Christ, to one another, and to the gospel – SO THAT the gospel may go forth.  

St Paul was a man of singular passion – Christ and the gospel – that was it, nothing else mattered.  NOTHING.  

I wonder, is it the same for us?  Don’t tell, show me!  🙂  


on the local church

Dave Black presents some challenging convictions we all need to think about: 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

5:05 AM At the risk of repeating myself …  

  • I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

  • I am convinced of the normalcy of tent-making leadership.

  • I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

  • I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

  • I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient. Efficient in doing almost everything other than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

  • I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

  • I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

  • I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

  • I am convinced that the church is a multi-generational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

  • I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

  • I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

  • I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

  • I am convinced that Paul’s letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands (a candidate for ordination) in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

  • I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

  • I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.

  • I am convinced that since all believers are “joints” in the body, ministry is every believer’s task.

  • I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God’s people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

  • I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

  • I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

  • I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

  • I am convinced that everyone needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

Think about it.

It’s a lot to think about and to be honest, over the last couple years I have been becoming convinced of many of the same points as well.

What about you?

what kind of church?

doing a flurry of post from the past when I was still at AGTS.  This was one was posted Dec 6, 2005:

Okay, so I was with some friends Sunday night and they talked about their vision for family ministry (they are recent aGts grads)  I was connecting with them and understanding everything fine, then the word “postmodern” came up.  They would like to be in a postmodern church.  I thought to myself hmmm…because another friend I have also wants to minister in a so-called “postmodern” church as well.

That’s cool. So, just what is a “postmodern” church?  Since nobody can even really define what “postmodern” is, which may be fitting with some of the values of the concept, how do we know what “it” is?  What would it look like?  How would it function in a given setting, say, rural areas?

Also, since the new wave seems to be a so-called “hyper-modernism” why would anyone want to be postmodern anymore (whatever that is)?

Why can’t we just be the church, the people of God as he has called us to be?  Willing and able to function in any setting in which he places us?  Why label it?  Whatever “it” is?


Alan Hirsch on being a missionary incarnational church

Check out this amazing video with Alan Hirsch on the missional and incarnational DNA of the church! He says a lot in this video and its like every statement was a loaded one that needs unpacking – this is the kind of stuff that gets me fired up! lol!

Here’s Alan Hirsch explaining why he thinks that the church has to be both missional and incarnational. .! … Read More

via scientia et sapientia

this is why I have a goal to do a ThM in Bible (to get as much Bible as I can) and then do a PhD in Intercultural Studies. All in good time I suppose. All in good time. 🙂

on Bibles and translations

Over at Abberation blog there is a post regarding Christian incivility toward the Bible with a few examples as:

#1  During the holidays at our local Christian retailer, customer walks in and examines the Bible section to see if they carry The Message Bible. Customer finds they do so he orders the clerk to come over. He begins to berate her for the store carrying it and stated it’s not a Bible and it belongs in a garbage can. Long story short, he ends up flicking a couple Message Bible’s off the store shelf onto the floor. At that point she threatened to call the police and he leaves.

#2  Over on the Puritanboard this was written about the Today’s New International Version,

the TNIV is a TERRIBLE translation. Its novelty is NO reason to trust it…look at how the original languages are represented (and look at the motivations of the translators!)

Do you have a wood burning fireplace? You might remove the covers from your TNIV and use the pages to help start fires.

…TNIV is the most accurate reflection of contemporary western society’s declining morals…

The Nearly Inspired Version?

yesTerday’s New International Version.

Truly Non-Inspired Version

#3  The New Living Translation (NLT) has a new fanpage. Considering the source, I don’t take this one very seriously. It’s announcing that it’s “straight from Hell.”

Then there is Gary sharing about his dilemma about what translation to go with for his regular Bible.  He also describes an instance where he couldn’t just sit with one Bible and read it – he kept switching around

Then, one person commented on TC’s blog post about if the unreached will be saved or not, stating in part:

“Of course if we read the NLT only all this would be clearer and we wouldn’t need to think so hard…. Or we could be ESV-onlyists, and be none the wiser, but at least bathe in the glow of our illusion that literal = accurate.”


Whew, where to begin?  I want to suggest as well that you read this article on The Art of Manliness blog about the problem of consumerism creating a lack of creativity and even commitment – more choices hasn’t help creativity it’s inhibited it, in fact even blocked it because it takes too much work to create – it’s easier just to consume and toss out – and I think this problem of consumerism as other Christian philosophers and scholar/pastors have noted, has completely consumed the church even to the point it is inhibiting our ability to really and faithfully live out the Christian life and witness to Jesus. 

How does this relate to the post and my title?  Well, I think the problem of incivility towards the Bible is possibly a part of this problem with consumerism on two fronts.  One  front is some are getting worn out by the consumer mentality and it is showing in the example #1 above – though this man’s temper tantrum reveals another problem of a general lack of understanding about Bible languages and how they work, thus the comment about our illusion that literal = accurate.  


In my opinion proper understanding of the biblical languages and how they work (linguistically, syntactically, etc) should lead to a more or less dynamic and smooth translation not a more literal one (e.g., TNIV, NLT, etc).   A literal translation only leads to one feeling as if one is reading his or her Greek Bible in English, not necessarily to a better understanding of the text at hand per se.


Which leads to the problem on the other front: we want to badly to be right that we have trouble dealing with any sense of inaccuracy or even ambiguity – which is leading to the problem of being willing to just stick with ONE Bible and go with that one – to read it through and through, to know it well. 

I wonder if the whole issue of multiple Bible translations and the vast array of types or editions of Bibles is a result of this consumer mentality – we want our choices and so much so we are not willing to stick with one Bible for fear a more accurate one might come out and so on.

This is the same problem with Church life – we can hardly stay at the same church for too long anymore because we want freedom of choice and to be able to consume and move on and he same with Bibles, as I mentioned. 

Well, mymind is still reeling on this issue but these are some thoughts for now.

my top books of 2009

since its the end of the year and we all like to and try to read as much as we can here are the one ones I read that had an impact on my in different ways.  please know too that beacause I am a pastor my reading will not be limited specifically to biblical studies or theology. 

Eugene Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Eerdmans, 1994). 

David Alan Black’s Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications, 2nd ed (Baker Academic, 2000). 

Howard Snyder’s The Community of the King, Revised Ed. (IVP, 2004).

Micheal Wittmer’s Heaven is a Place on Earth: Why Everything you do Matters to God (Zondervan, 2004). 

Jerry Cook and Stanley Baldwin’s Love, Forgiveness, Acceptance: Equipping the Chruch to be Truly Christian in a Non-Christian World (Regal Books, 1979) (reprinted, 2009). 

Anderw Purves’s Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation (WJK, 2004). 

T. F. Torrance’s Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (IVP: 2008).

Tony Merida, Faithful Preaching: Declaring Scripture with Responsibility, Passion, and Authenticity (B&H Academic, 2009).

Book Review: The Community of the King

community of the kingThanks to Adrianna Wright of InterVarsity Press (IVP) for this review copy of Howard A. Snyder’s The Community of the King, Revised Edition (IVP, 2004). 

I need to apologize to the folk at IVP, I requested this book some time ago and it’s taken me a long time to read, both because we’ve had a lot going on and because, well, this is a really thick book to read.  While there is only 220 pages of reading part from the indices and extensive bibliography, Snyder has much to say about the church and ecclesiology that I hadn’t really though through before and that have challenged me on a number of levels. 

This makes me ask the question, have you thought through how you view “the Church” both locally and globally, lately?  If not, don’t worry, you’re not alone.   Until I read through The Community of the King, I had not really given much focused thought on the Church and it’s role in the world and in the mission of God.  At least not to the degree that Snyder got me thinking.

Because Snyder covers so much material in this book it hard to know where to begin.  It really deserves a multi-part review covering each section of the book, but I can’t do that so I’ll try to cover the basics here.  He breaks the contents down to three sections each building upon the previous ones to build a solid and biblically based theology of the Church (also called Ecclesiology), both locally and globally.   The entire premise of the book centers around the question, “does the Church bring the Kingdom?” and if so, how so?  For Snyder,

The church is seen as the community of God’s people — a people called to serve God and called to live together in true Christian community as a witness to the character and virtues of God’s reign (13). 

He sees the church as the primary agent of God’s mission on the earth.   The mission (purpose) of God is to bring “all things and, supremely, all people under the dominion and headship of Jesus Christ” (13).   Therefore, the Church, that is, the people of God, is the agent, or the means by which God’s mission is accomplished in this world.  To Snyder, the Church is the only divinely appointed means for the spreading of the gospel in all the world.    So, the Church is the agent of the kingdom.   God is the King of all the earth and God’s people consist of the kingdom, so God’s people then, consist of the community of the King.  As Snyder sees it:

Biblically, neither evangelism nor social action, nor the church’s worship life, nor any other aspect of the church’s being makes full sense divorced from the fact of the Christian community as the visible, flesh-and-blood expression of the kingdom of God (13).

What is the kingdom of God?  “The kingdom of God is the dominion or [spiritual] reign of God and not primarily  place or a realm.  Biblically, the kingdom refers first to a reign, dominion, or rule and only secondarily to the realm over which a reign is exercised” (15). 

What is the mission of the kingdom? 

It is the ongoing reconciling work of God in Christ seen from the perspective of the final definitive establishment of God’s dominion when Christ returns to earth.  So then, in essence because of Christ, “the Kingdom is Jesus Christ and, through the church, the reconciling of all things in him.  For the present it is the growth in the world of the grace, love, joy, health, peace, and justice seen in Jesus.  The kingdom is both present and future, both earthly and heavenly, both hidden and visible (17). 

And this is just some key ideas from the introductionThis is an important book.  I am surprised I had not heard of it sooner.   It is important Christians gain a solid and proper understanding of the kingdom of God because to misunderstand the kingdom of God (its nature and purpose) is to risk misunderstanding the nature of the Christian faith and what it means to even be a Christian.  So, Snyder’s goal in writing this book is to help create in Christians a kingdom consciousness; to help Christians become more intentional in going about kingdom living; to consciously live as members of the community of the King!

For the remainder of the book, Snyder works out a biblical theology of the church, what it is, and what it should look like.   For Snyder, the essence of the church is not organization or even institution but a charismatic community.  Unlike other recent works that seem to castigate the institutional nature of the modern church, Snyder does not do this.  While the church’s essence is not institution but community and fellowship (koinonia), he recognizes that any time a group of Christians gather together for community, organization and ultimately institutionalism will result (at least in the long run).  Many folks these days mock the very notions of organized religion but really, how does any religion find ways to express itself without some form of organization.  

Now, of course “organized religion” is a term used to decry the faults of institutionalism but really instead of decrying it, the Church, that is, the community of God’s people, merely need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of organizing and so work accordingly.  Plainly put, you can’t really get around it, so work with it (as a case in point, even those who leave the organized church to start home churches or house churches, even they themselves eventually fall prey to the very thing they detest: institutionalism.  It just happens. 

One of the things I most appreciated about Snyder’s work is the approach he took in describing the church.  His model is essentially eclectic in that he takes parts from different models to put together a picture of what the Church should look like in its ideal setting.  He notes the contributions of each tradition (Catholic, Reformed, Pentecostal, Liberationist, etc).  His model is one that emphasizes the Church as the community of God and not a hierarchical institution.  His definition of the Church

seeks to affirm the biblical richness, diversity, and mystery of the true body of Christ and to seek practical models that are both faithful to Scripture and highly relevant to the church’s being… (59). 

I noted earlier that Snyder sees the Church as a charismatic community.  In what sense does he mean charismatic?  Snyder uses the term in the original biblical sense of pertaining to the working and empowering of the grace, or charis of God.  Snyder argues:

The word reminds us both of that grace by which we are saved and of the special gifts of the grace or charisms (charismata) that God promises to the church.  In this sense charismatic has no specific reference to glossolalia except in the general sense that tongues is one of the charisms mentioned in the New Testament (83). 

 He goes on to argue:

The charismatic emphasis, and particularly the doctrine of spiritual gifts, is too important to be abandoned because of controversy over a wordCharismatic is a good, biblically based term that needs to be restored to the church in full biblical richness.  While the term is not the exclusive property of the charismatic movement, it does remind us that God has used this movement to call the larger body of Christ back to a neglected biblical emphasis.  As Geoffery Bromiley noted, Reformation Protestantism must come to “a fresh realization that Christian ministry is, and has to be, a charismatic movement” (83). 

I can appreciate this emphasis because I belive he is right in saying that the focus is not on the so-called showy gifts of the Spirit but on the fact that the church, both locally and globally, is a Spirit empowered community of faith, empowered by the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s mission and purpose in the world, which is the redemption and reconciliation of humanity and creation that it may come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 

Snyder also argues the church as the agent of the kingdom is to be a prophetic community.  Actually, he argues the church is to be both an evangelistic and prophetic agent of the kingdom.  He says the church is to be prophetically evangelistic and evangelistically prophetic.  What does he mean by this? 

For Snyder, “the evangelistic task of the church is to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ throughout the world, making disciples and building congregations that are kingdom communities.”  This is the beginning point of the church’s role in God’s redemptive purposes for the world.  “Evangelism is the first priority of the church’s ministry in the world” (118). 

One part I found pretty interesting and that has prompted a bit of a paradigm shift in my thinking is that Snyder sees evangelism as primarily the witness of the church-as-community – meaning the body of Christ as a whole gives witness to Jesus through its actions and discipleship to Jesus, not just individuals.  The same goes for local congregations.  Local congregations as a whole give witness to Jesus through their presence in the community.  While the NT does show the Peter’s and Paul’s who individually go about evangelizing, evangelism remains primarily the responsibility of the community of faith.   So for Snyder, witness and community go together.  This is interesting because what it is implying is that in some ways the individual’s witness to Jesus may or may not amount to much if the community of faith is not behind it (if they are not validating the individuals witness through both word and deed).  What is done on the individual level needs to be confirmed by the larger community (120). 

Also, Snyder sees the end goal of evangelism not so much as getting people saved or gaining coverts as much as it is the formation of Christian community – true church based evangelism is evangelism that builds up the church, the body of Christ, and makes disciples (121).  Many present methods of evangelism have tended to over focus on winning and nurturing individual converts instead of working for the formation of a kingdom community of disciples. 

In the church’s prophetic role, reconciliation is the primary focus.  Snyder lists four ways the church is prophetic: the church is prophetic when it creates and sustains a reconciled and reconciling community of believers.   The reconciliation is of course between God and man but Snyder argues that transformation should lead to lots of other forms of reconciliation such as with marriages, broken relationships in general along with racial, social or economic marginalization (126). 

The church is also prophetic when it recognizes and indentifies the true emeny – the devil.  In recognizing Satan as the real ememy of people’s souls and as the enemy of the church, the church seeks to bring liberation through reconciliation, which leads to breaking the bondage of sin in people’s hearts and lives (128-129). 

The church is prophetic when it renounces the world’s definition of practice and power.  Real Christianity follows Jesus in using power differently than the way the world does.  Rather than to seek hierarchy and authority, real power is found in humility, service and love. 

Finally, the church is prophetic when it works for justice in society.  This is when the church, as the community of the King is less concerned about the status quo and instead seeks the safety, dignity, and personal rights of the defenseless.  It is prophetic when it seeks to minimize marginalization of the poor and oppressed. 

It’s in these ways that the church then, through the power of the Holy Spirit functions as the agent of the kingdom and reveals its true purpose and nature.   There is plenty more to talk about with regard to this book but the purpose of a review is not to necesarily give all the details but focus on the major points and then evaluate them accordingly. 

As I said before, this is an important book and if you are interesting in working on your own theology of the church – Snyder’s book, The Community of the King would be a great place to start.

Evangelicalism only declining among White Christians?

go check out Greg Boyd’s latest note on how only White American Christianity is dyingThe book he cites sounds interesting and may comport well with statistics, at least in the Assemblies of God, that the fastest growing segment of AG churches are multicultural congregations.   So, maybe the American church isn’t dying afterall?

[here are some pertinent quotes to consider]:

First, it confirms a point driven home by Alan Hirsch in his great book Forgotten Ways: namely, that the Jesus-movement always tends to thrive in “luminous” situations (that is, in marginal social contexts). Conversely, it tends to grow stagnate once it gets embraced by those within the dominant culture.

As the history of the Church repeatedly shows, as soon as Christianity comes into power and respectability, it starts to decay.  The church invariably stops contrasting with the dominant culture — manifesting a radically different, Jesus-looking, way of life.  Rather, as it gains acceptance, respectability and power within the dominant culture, the church invariably starts to blend in with the culture.  Indeed, it is eventually reduced to the role of providing religious legitimization of the culture.  For example, rather than showing a different way of life by opposing all violence, the Church that has been acclimated to the dominant culture has more often than not served to assure people that their nation’s use of violence is divinely sanctioned.

White American Christianity has tended to exemplify this trend throughout its history.

What say you?