Always nice to have an expectant and engaged audience - I'll do my best ;)
Hey Ben. Glad you weighed in here as this is a needed perspective. In taking Jesus' ministry as a model, what I am after here isn't purity of understanding or even involvement, but clarity of purpose and intention. Practically, I think this translates into being clear about calling people OUT of particular ways of thinking and operating as we call them IN to new ones. I see this is Jesus when, right at the beginning of his public ministry he offered a message of "repent" - turn away from what you think is right and good and "follow" - join me to figure out what is actually right and good. The journey was one of "evolution," but the message was one of "revolution." I just think we do everyone a big favor of being honest up front - the call to discipleship is a call to die. To the extent that we let people think it's anything other, like a formula for exponential growth or a pre-packaged program (to use the categories from above), I think we're missing the mark.
Graham... Again, I say in the post and in the comment above that the issue is not size, it's theological and cultural disposition. Also, to your concern about over-generalizing, I was not doing so. Rather, I was responding to Mike's comment specifically and noticing that among the many accolades he lists, seeking to support people right down the road wasn't one of them. Glad to hear that in your case (as I am sure is the case in many others as well), this is not the norm. Still, I am aching to hear from you or others how large churches (here I am thinking at least 1000+) specifically seek to circumvent the problems I note in the post. My contention remains that while these characteristics can be found in a church of any size, their likelihood (especially in an American contxt) is exponentially higher, also they seeking to course-correct for them is exponentially harder.
Thanks for weighing in Jeff. I am with you on the point you are making, but what I meant to get across wasn't so much that "Good pastors SHOULD DO theology" so much as "Pastoral work IS ALWAYS theological." Of course that bleeds over and I don't mean to draw a hard line between them, but I think this way of framing it provides a bit of a different entry point to thinking about this issue.
Yeah, good thoughts John. I can only imagine that the divide you are referring to is part and parcel of an ongoing over-distinction b/t clergy and laity. Taking corrective steps in this direction will hopefully lead to a future where theology, far from being a dirty or intimidating word, will be seen as part and parcel of what it meals to be a follower of Jesus.
Glad you found the blog/post Joe. Appreciate the encouragement.
Hey Tim. Have enjoyed following your posts on this new position you are in, sounds like a good place to be! Might be cool if you shared how this larger church is approaching and avoiding the issues I mentioned above. I really think it would be a helpful addition to the conversation here.
Mike, if you go back and read the post again, you will see that I indicate that the ultimate issue is not size.
You may need to go back and read Matthew 14 and 15 again, Jesus was not intentional in any way whatsoever in drawing these (or any crowds). In fact, making a spectavle of himself was part of the Satanic temptation that he avoided! His was ABSOLUTELY and UNEQUIVOCALY anything but a personality-cntric ministry. He was constantly pointing people away from himself and toward the father. He spent the vast majority of his time, not building himself up, but building into his disciples, and the end goal of his life was not to remain at the center, but to leave so that his work would be distrbuted to others. You do see this right?
Sounds like your church has done some good things. Too bad you don't have a vision for how you might breate life into your brothers and sisters right down the road. Sounds like they could use the encouragement and support.
Only one problem with that Mike, Jesus didn't function that way. He embodied the kingdom of God while also calling people to repentance and faithfulness for where they had gone off track. The issue is that we are a family, not a business. It's not a matter of working a share of the market and hoping that others hop on board if/when it's successful, it's a matter of trying to work out together what it means to be the Body of Christ.
Why should I care? I care because I see the gospel undermined and people being misled as to what it means to be a follower of of Christ.