Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


My heartfelt thanks for the response yesterday to the young man who was inquiring about preaching and pastoring. A very kind reader asked for his address and will send him a few books and a publisher contacted me to send him a book, too. Nothing like seeing the Jesus Creed in action! Here’s the response yesterday from the young pastor-to-be:
I can’t begin to tell you how moved I am by the response to the post. Just to have my questions acknowledged as legitimate, good, shared questions has been immensely healing and encouraging – by which I mean, I read the responses through eyes streaming with tears, of course. :-) There have been lots of great responses and the fact that so many would take time to respond so graciously, thoughtfully, with prayers and encouragement…I feel very embraced by the Body of Christ today. My thanks, with all my heart.
Your reader offering the books is another example of kindness that blows me away. Absolutely I’m interested.
Please convey my heartfelt gratitude to her.
One last thing – I find it fascinating how many people have pointed to “deeper” or formational issues underlying my questions, even without access to the complete letter which allowed you to see the same. I had lunch with a pastor friend Monday – which will hopefully be a monthly thing – and ruminating on what you’d said, plus our lunch conversation, helped something click for me. All this time, I’ve been asking “what is preaching?” type questions (and it does, as I said, do me more goood than I can say to have that question taken seriously and compassionately, and not be treated as a reprobate for questioning). But I think what I’ve really been needing to ask is “what are pastors? What does it mean that I’m one?” It is, absolutely, a deeper issue of spiritual formation.
So…thanks to all of you, I’m asking the right question. And since that doesn’t mean all the other questions go away…well, thanks to you, your readers, and the many books added to my book list, I’ve got lots of resources to help me get further down the road.
It’s been a good day.

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Tim Wade

posted February 22, 2008 at 8:19 am

I confess that while I read the letter yesterday, I was not able to read all the responses, so please forgive me if I repaeat something someone has already said. My spirit resonates with yours in many ways.
I, like you, am making that same transition from minister to pastor. I am nearly forty years old, though, and just finishing my BA. Soon hopefully, I will start attending divinity school.
I have been blessed in that the last two pastors under whom I have served pastored so well that they set an example that did not lead me to ask the question, “What is a pastor.” From these two men it is more than obvious that a pastor is a man or woman anointed of God’s Holy Spirit that sees to the spiritual needs of his or her flock by loving them, and caring for them whenever and whereever they are. Both of these men to whom I refer are like that, and you can see the love of Christ flowing through them, apart from their own power and abilities.
I will add also, and do not want to take up too much more space, here, but both men do not preach all that well. They communicate the Gospel, but lack charisma behind the pulpit. If you want to emphasize on preaching and oration, be an evangelist. They do not pastor as much as they preach. But if it is servitude to which you are called, and the needs of the body concern you, then go be a pastor. Just realize that you don’t have to stand behind a pulpit every Sunday in order to do that job. Some of the best pastors are parents who simply take their kids to church every week, and pray with them when they get scared at night.

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posted February 22, 2008 at 8:32 am

I read your letter yesterday and didn’t have time to respond.
I’m so glad the responses you received were encouraging. I question the role of preaching so much that I’ve stopped going to church to be preached at. I love respectful dialog which people listen to each other and learn from each other – but the one-way-ness of preaching turns me off.
Regardless of my own feelings about preaching, I wish you well in finding a role which you can live out with the conviction and evidence that what you are doing is meaningful and helpful to others.

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posted February 22, 2008 at 12:31 pm

And thanks to YOU, for giving the Jesus Creeders the opportunity to love this brother! Many, many more of us who didn’t comment resonated with the situation and the questions and were equally encouraged. Well done, indeed.

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Ron Fay

posted February 22, 2008 at 4:00 pm

What is interesting for me is that I have been struggling with figuring out what God wants me to do. I have finished a PhD in NT and have published in journals and chapters in books, yet I am unable to find an academic job. My heart is in teaching and mentoring others, but is that the same as being called to the pastorate? I know I am not called to preach even though I can preach probably average or better than average. My heart is in discipleship and shepherding, but is that enough to be called into the pastorate?
Frankly, I just don’t know and God certainly is not giving me any answers, nor has He for going onto three years.
– Ron

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posted February 22, 2008 at 4:36 pm

I apologize for coming late to this discussion but I hope you will all forgive my late post as I would like to offer encouragement to those of you who open a path to God and try to keep it clear by “preaching” from one who has been saved by it.
Jesus told us that preaching was like sowing seeds. You know the parable. Stony ground, wind, choking weeds. We only have limited control over whether those seeds will come to fruition. And we never know how long those seeds may lay dormant before they spring up one day and bear fruit.
I don’t think I am exaggerating to say that my sanity, perhaps even my life, was saved by God speaking to me through preaching, among other things. I remember sitting in church and weeping as the rector interpreted scripture in ways that I felt she was speaking directly to me – killing me softly with her sermon, so to speak. I imagine there were few others so affected by her words, if they were even paying attention and not daydreaming. Still it took almost 2 years of struggle on my part and patience on hers before I was ready to be baptized. Even seeds planted on fertile ground take a while to grow. Every time you preach only a few will really hear what you are saying. But if in 20 years of preaching you bring 20 to God – really truly to God, and they stay there – isn’t it worth it?
I now attend an Anglican church but when I was a teenager I was an evangelical for a short time. Although, for a variety of reasons, I turned my back on evangelical Christianity and although, in some ways evangelical theology was a stumbling block for me, if I am honest, it was still the seeds sown during that time when I was a teenager which eventually poked through the weeds in a different garden.
One of my mother’s favourite stories involves an Anglican priest who was assigned to their small northern Alberta parish. She always starts the story by saying “Now Reverend X was a very poor speaker, but he was a saint.” and she would proceed to tell stories of his tireless self-sacrifice and compassion – how he would head out in blizzards to visit the sick, the hungry and elderly; how he would, in his softspoken way, badger farmers and shop-owners for food and money for hungry families in the parish and beyond, how he would wait quietly outside the door of the local doctor until he agreed to come with him to visit a sick child on the reserve, how he personally gave away everything he had as soon as he got it to someone less fortunate. His sermons were apparently painful to listen to – he mumbled and looked down and got lost while speaking – but mercifully short. Nobody cared – they loved him more for it. Not just his own parishioners but townsfolk in general were shamed or encouraged into more loving and Christlike actions by his example. The punch line of my mother’s story was the time the United Church decided to take up a collection to buy him a new suit – his own being so disgracefully patched and threadbare. They decided against giving him the money to buy one because they knew he would just give it away to “some poor Indian”. That story has always stayed with me, reminding me of the best of Christianity, even when I scorned the theology and what I thought was the more common hypocrisy. The memory of the actions of that man was one of the seeds that brought my mother back to the fold in her twilight years. When people ask her why she decided on the Anglican church, she will start “There was this minister when I was a girl…” Sometimes it takes a lifetime for the seeds you sow to come to fruition. God has his own plan for His garden and we have to trust that.

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Chris Cottingham

posted February 22, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Ron #4,
I feel for you, my friend. If I might suggest – if you look at some of the answers in the previous, post, this whole discussion – which has immense resonance for me – emphasizes that pastoring is PASTORAL, about discipling, mentoring, helping the flock to grow and be healthy. Look back at all those comments about spiritual direction and serving the flock etc. It’s that more than it is preaching, right? So if your heart is in discipling and shepherding (which is a synonym for pastoring), in teaching and mentoring…well, I’d say to listen to yourself, because that just might be meaningful.
For myself – I fell into about 2 years of depression some years back, and the biggest part of that was that I was fighting my calling without knowing it. I thought I was pursuing my call to be a minister, but was closed entirely to the idea of preaching and pastoring. Yet, I thought I was very open, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t see any job opportunities or really, any vision of my future that was palatable. I was angry at God for a long time for calling me and not clarifying the call.
I now understand God was offering clarity, but I’d dismissed out of hand the thing he was leading me toward.
Don’t know if any of that will apply to your journey, or other’s, but I hope it’s helpful. My prayers for you, anyway.

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