A letter which the young candidate would like discussed:
I am 34 (10 years part time youth ministry experience) and currently in discussion with a local congregation about joining their staff as FT Youth Pastor.
During my first meeting with the Elders I was asked, “What would you say to a 15 year old boy that asks, ?How do I get to Heaven??”
Now we had just been discussing the legalistic views of my spiritual heritage and so I incorrectly assumed that this was a ?test question? to see if I was legalistic in regards to the role of baptism. So our discussion took off on a tangent and was not resolved.
As the discussion stands today ? this elder is still not convinced that I am ?Evangelical enough.? At our next meeting this discussion will continue.
Now that I know it is not a ?test question? for baptism, but it is a test question for evangelism ? something emerging Christians have been critiqued for.
My honest answer to this fictitious 15 year old, ?I believe you may be asking the wrong question.?
This will not satisfy this elder. I know he wants to hear, ?confess and believe and say a little prayer? and I believe that everyone should confess their sins. I believe that Jesus died to reconcile us to God. I believe that everyone should repent (turn from their way of living and turn to God?s way of living). I just don?t have a formula (and refuse to have a formula) for leading a fictitious person to salvation. I prefer conversation, questions and dialogue, partially because that is what I see Jesus doing. My other reason for disliking formulas (i.e. Romans Road) is what it teaches my fictitious friend about reading and understanding the Bible ? you need to know what order to read the passages in to understand it?. Most formulas I have seen have at least two additional faults; they do not respect the context of the verse being quoted and/ or they do not take into account the whole teaching on the subject of “coming to Christ.” They focus on an assent to knowledge. Assent to knowledge doesn?t necessarily lead to changed behaviors.
Okay so now you understand my context. What would you suggest?
Here are the options as I see them:
1) I come out completely honest about the questions I am asking about our conventional understanding of God. Here I risk loosing this job. Fortunately, I have a well paying and semi-rewarding “secular” job. I also loose the opportunity to participate with this community as the “begin this new phase” of their existence. (This community is at the end of one life cycle and the leadership (lay, elders, and pastors) are on the verge of beginning a new life cycle for this congregation.)
2) Tell this elder what he wants to hear and then attempt to covertly lead this congregation through this change. (This seems dishonest to me and I am not comfortable with it).
3) Something in the middle. I come clean to a point by raising questions. This allows them some insight into my thinking without sounding like a heretic. I like this option because I do feel called to be a leader of change (which explains my secular job of Lean manufacturing) in all systems, but it historically this has not gone well for me in other ministry settings. I have grown through these bad experiences, but am I willing to risk the pain and hurt again? Do I want this for my family?
4) Just forget it. Politely withdraw from these discussions and express my non-interest in this position. What reason will I give? And then what? I seldom sit at home or church and think about manufacturing things better, but here I sit at work thinking and electronically conversing about ministry. I feel called to ministry.
I look forward to the thoughts and questions of this community.