Friday, June 30, 2006

Manifesto of a Wannabe Kirk Minister

I’m just back from a holiday in Kenya – many thoughts on that to follow in later posts. But, for the time being, I thought I would share these ideas I had for a personal manifesto on being a prospective parish minister in the Church of Scotland. The scenario I imagined was how I would present myself given the opportunity to consider working in a particular congregation. What would I say to a committee that had to make a final recommendation on sole nominee for a vacant charge? How would I sell my ministerial services?

Given that local situations are peculiar, and assuming some biblical or historical patterns, here is what I came up with. My manifesto is personal, so it’s not a fully-orbed description of Christian ministry of word and sacrament. And, let’s assume a congregation in the evangelical tradition.

Here are 3 things that would define my role:

Fulfilment of my obligations to Presbytery. Most of you will be staggered that this is my first point. But, I have come to the conclusion that in the CofS presbyteries are the basic component. This is an outrageous position – local congregations should be the basic unit of any denomination. My theory about presbyteries v. local congregations is rather convoluted, and requires further work. But, I think it can be defended. Ministers, as ministers in the CofS, are members of a presbytery rather than a local church. I am aware that the current situation is quite fluid – but until very recently ministers were bound to a presbytery in all their work. So, as far as I understand things, I’d feel obliged to moderate (chair) the various committees of a local church. And I would also fulfil the normal duties of a minister of word and sacrament in a parish setting. I would do these things under the authority of a Presbytery.

Use and development of my spiritual gifts in the service of others. Rather vague this one – but, I am beginning to realise that ministry in the New Testament sense is focused on the use of gifts. Paul is quite clear about this, not least in Romans 12:4-8. His emphasis in that passage is letting people use their gifts – I think the NIV is right to use the ‘if…, let…’ construction to interpret verses 6 to 8.

Nurturing of a responsive attitude to God’s will in my ministry. This could come down to rather blunt things – like knowing when to move on. But, again, Paul would be my example – of course, there is a greater example in Jesus – but I am always impressed by the way in which Paul seems to relate everything back to his relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit. However we discern that sense of God’s leading, in a conservative or a charismatic way, it must be a priority of Christian ministry.

Fulfilment of obligations. Use of gifts. Nurturing of a proper attitude. F.U.N.

Having set the parameters, here are 3 Ts that go some way to putting meat on the bones of F.U.N. Three things I would do as a minister, and probably the three things to which I would dedicate myself.

I would:

Think about the evangelistic strategy of the congregation. This would include mission and service. Obviously, I would try and do some evangelism. But, this would really be my own personal service to Christ. I am sure that churches can and should be mission orientated and evangelistically focused. This has to be considered by each fellowship in its peculiar make up and location. As minister of a church, I would take some responsibility for this without dominating or leading the outworking of the strategy.

Teach. I would try and teach people about the Christian world view. I would do this by majoring on the big themes of the Bible, through various different methods. The only obligation I would seek to encourage in all church members would be regular attendance at Sunday (Lord’s Day) gatherings. My task would then be to make those gatherings encouraging and uplifting. But I would also need to think about how to teach those who were keen and/or able to advance in Christian discipleship. This teaching would be related to Sunday gatherings, but it would be additional. It would be comprehensive. But it would also need to be focused on individual needs and individual potential. I would dread to be a teaching minister to some of the readers of I to the hills – teaching professors and intellectuals is very different to teaching young, keen and energetic teenagers. But I believe that all of God’s people need some level of teaching. I would need time to read and study in preparation for all this teaching.

Train people in how to worship God. I use worship here in its liturgical sense primarily but not exclusively. This seems an incredibly pretentious objective. But, I do tend towards a high view of Christian gatherings. Teaching is not the end of ministry, it is the foundation for Christian living. In fact, I see a distinction between preaching and teaching. Preaching is a really bad way to teach people, but it is the supreme way of leading people to worship of the living God. There really is something special about Christians meeting to pray, sing, listen to Scripture readings, confess sin, seek forgiveness, and receive assurance in the Lord’s supper. Whether a bare hymn sandwich, or a high liturgical service, or the lowest form of open worship, I think churches always need training to understand and improve practice.

I would seek to carry out this manifesto as part of a church that is led by a team. I would not have sole responsibility for anything in the church apart from tasks delegated to me by that team, or by Presbytery.

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

Guess we now know what David was reading/doing on holiday when he wasn't dancing with the masai warriors...