Via Tim Keller (Counterfeit Gods):
“Another form of idolatry within religious communities turns spiritual gifts and ministry success into a counterfeit god. Spiritual gifts (talent, ability, performance, growth) are often mistaken for what the Bible calls spiritual “fruit” (love, joy, patience, humility, courage, gentleness). Even ministers who believe with the mind that “I am only saved by grace” can come to feel in their heart that their standing with God depends largely on how many lives they are changing.”
When the ministry is pressed in to a form that does not value relationship and “thriving in the ordinary” but instead is forced to value success, ministry optimization, and visible productivity, it is no wonder that pastors find themselves crushed under a weight of expectation that they are powerless to fulfill.
Many times, pastors are weary not because they are thriving in doing good, but because they are disillusioned in the wake of their own frailty and weakness. Problematically, elders and church members alike do not see this as a problem to be addressed, but rather as a damning weakness that should be rooted out of the pulpit in favor of a man with “vision”.
We have embraced a culture that thrives on destroying the weak, and pushing men in to corners where they must feign strength lest they be found out as imposters and given their swan song from the parishes they serve.
If you recall from my previous post, I have it on fairly good authority that school and I have never been the most chummy of friends.
The program that I will be a part of will be akin to the type of study done at “great book schools” like St. Johns College. For three years, I will be part of a cohort of other men (pastors) in ministry working to understand the biblical, historical, and contemporary issues facing the church in regards to her worship.
The Doctor of Ministry at Covenant Seminary is based on a group-based model of learning. This group-based model provides pastors with greater opportunities for growth and learning in the midst of trustworthy and mutually beneficial peer relationships. As members of a DMin cohort group, I would learn with and from other seasoned ministry practitioners under the guidance of an experienced faculty member (Dr. Mark Dalbey). This approach is designed to enhance the ministry benefit of the DMin to my life and ministry and to increase my effectiveness both here at this church and in the Kingdom.
The Doctor of Ministry in Christian Worship has this stated purpose: “Today’s church faces many challenges and opportunities with regard to corporate worship. A strong biblical and theological foundation, wise contextual understanding, and careful practical application are needed to face these challenges effectively. The worship cohort is designed to inspire and equip pastors to develop Reformed worship ministries that are: 1) biblically based, 2) gospel-centered, 3) reverent yet joyful, 4) edifying to God’s people, 5) accessible to non-believers, and 6) glorifying to God. A dissertation written as part of this cohort will ideally provide valuable resources for the church as it navigates present and future worship issues in a thoughtful and prayerful way.”
This is going to be a rather intense process. I know that when left to my default drive, I am a sprinter before a marathon runner. I do not have a habit of finishing self-directed projects well. So, I am praying that God will strengthen me, my wife, our marriage, my church, and our community of supporters during this time.
Keeping Track of Progress
Earlier this year, I redesigned and “refocused” my blog. While I will still give my attention to occasional commentary on the food culture in America, society, politics and social issues, most of my writing on here will be “first thoughts” on things I am reading, interacting with, and developing for future writing. That is where you step in. Dialogue with people who read and ask questions will (hopefully) improve my thinking and further my own growth and research.
As they say… now the fun begins.
I am not against counting things when it comes to church. The old adage which says, “We count people because people count” may be trite, but it is true. We should count the things that we keep track of. But all of us will readily admit that there is something suspicious going on with our relationship with the attendance figure. I believe it is because, at times, we look to it to justify ourselves and our ministries.
The equations on the chalkboard of our heart usually go something like this:
Lots of people = Visible success in ministry = I am happy
Fewer people = Failure in ministry = I am depressed
Anybody else think that math is a little fuzzy?
This is a really helpful piece, and I would encourage you to go and read the rest of it. Especially if you are a pastor. But even if you are not, if you are in the church, you need to read this because it reveals just some of the pressure that men in ministry are under. And sometimes, the pressure they are under is placed upon them because of the people in the pew.
What are we saying about the old adage of “nickels, numbers, and noise”? That in terms of gospel faithfulness, it might not be telling the whole story… and in fact it might be telling a lie.