Mess of Pottage Blog

Luke's "Pro" Blog

Multisite and Bivocational Ministry

One of the topics we discussed yesterday, when I was meeting with some local pastors, was the megachurch-and- branch-campus model used by churches like Saddleback and North Point. (This model is also important to Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, as discerned by Christianity Today but — curiously — not the PC(USA) in its own reporting.)

None of the pastors I met with were very enthusiastic about this model. We can look at a John Ortberg or an Andy Stanley and recognize what great preachers they are, but it’s hard to be enthusiastic about being a “campus pastor” with modest or minimal opportunities to preach. (This emphasis on sermonizing is reflected in the polity of the PC(USA), where pastors are “teaching elders” — and before that, “ministers of Word and sacrament.”)

But the pastors I met with were all full time ministers. There are reasons to believe we are not the wave of the future. Rather, the church seems to be moving toward a model of bivocational pastors, as described last year in the Presbyterian Outlook, where pastors have a day job to pay the bills, in addition to their vocation as a pastor. This week, the Atlantic wondered about this trend:

Working multiple jobs is nothing new to pastors of small, rural congregations. But many of those pastors never went to seminary and never expected to have a full-time ministerial job in the first place. What’s new is the across-the-board increase in bi-vocational ministry in Protestant denominations both large and small, which has effectively shut down one pathway to a stable—if humble—middle-class career.

What happens when you combine this trend with the multi-campus, multi-venue model with the trend toward part-time ministry?

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Kirsten Powers’ Conversion Story

Via Donald Miller, the fascinating story of Kirsten Powers’ conversion to Christianity:

I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don’t know what you don’t know. How could I have missed something I didn’t think existed?

Read the whole thing. There’s even a Presbyterian connection.

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Important Cases Go to Court

The PC(USA) G.A. Judicial Commission to hear three major cases. One is a ruling by the Los Ranchos Presbytery to reinstate the old “fidelity and chastity” clause of the Book of Order at a more local level. The Synod ruled such resolutions were constitutional. So it’s being appealed. This is the “tails you lose, heads we win” school of polity. More-local councils should only be allowed to make decisions when they make the right decisions. Or at least the politically correct ones.

But you say, connectionalism requires that presbyteries are subordinate to [the discernment of the will of God expressed by the Holy Spirit through] the councils to which they belong? Hmm. I’m minded of this observation by Kevin DeYoung, which is generally supportive of a presbyterian approach to church discipline:

the elders in a Presbyterianism system serve as Christ’s representatives and with Christ’s authority, but they are not mini-Christs. The presbyters do not have a blank check to decide whatever they want. The keys of the kingdom must always be tied to the King’s words.

The context was discipline within the local church, but if you change elders to presbyteries, or synods, or the general assembly PJC, it’s still true.

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GA Committee Recommendations

Several committees at the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) meeting in Pittsburgh have issued reports. These will now be voted on by the General Assembly and if they pass, will be sent on to the presbyteries for voting during the year ahead.

While I’m sure the commissioners did their work as well as they could, I’m personally disappointed with several of their recommendations, including these:

There’s another recommendation that I’m still trying to figure out.

  • Changing the ordination standards to include “repentence” and “grace.” Since it involves ordination standards, I assume the underlying issue is human sexuality, but of course we prefer to speak in generalities.
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Straight Teaching

Imagine an argument where one parent said, “I love our baby,” and the other parent didn’t reply, “Well, so do I!” Even in an amicable separation, that would raise some eyebrows. For the same reason, there are three words I’d like mainline protestant Christians to reclaim. They each represent something too important to walk away from.

One of those words is “orthodox.” We don’t use the word very much, except when we use a capital “O” to refer to “Orthodox Christians,” the eastern branches of Christianity resulting from the Great Schism of 1054.

That’s too bad, because “orthodoxy” should be important to us. Read the rest of this entry »

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Overheard Chuckle

I just had a conversation with someone, and laughed when I heard this:

Another factor, perhaps overlooked, in understanding why Presbyterianism thrived in Scotland, is, of course, whiskey.

“And all God’s people said, ‘Amen.'”

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Heroes and mentors

Only last night, I was bemoaning how the PC(USA) does such a lousy job of developing new pastors. (I.e., me.) You get an education, you get evaluated on your gifts for ministry, and then you get turned loose on some poor, unsuspecting church. In too many ways, you’re on your own as a pastor.

Our system intentionally prevents people from becoming pastors in the context where their gifts for ministry first surfaced. You may be a stellar youth director, but if you go to seminary, you will not return to that same church as a pastor.

We also don’t mentor our newbies. We’re too busy in our churches, we’re too geographically dispersed–this isn’t Scotland, and whatever the meetings of our governing bodies are good for, it sure isn’t mentoring. Unless you had previous experience on a church staff (as an Associate Pastor or a non-ordained position), you don’t have more than a smattering of experience to draw on as you go about your work.

That was last night. This morning, I read this on Seth Godin’s blog:

Mentors provide bespoke guidance. They take a personal interest in you. It’s customized, rare and expensive.

Heroes live their lives in public, broadcasting their model to anyone who cares to look.

Like a custom made suit, a mentor is a fine thing to have if you can find or afford it. But for the rest of us, heroes will have to do.

Good advice. If nobody will mentor you, find some heroes. Stop with the pity party already, and take some responsibility for your ministry. (“You are Elasti-girl! ” —Edna Mode)

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Checking Our Heads

Yesterday, I enthused about the PC(USA) website’s makeover, and one of my Facebook friends went to see it. He’s a Southern Baptist, and he wasn’t impressed with this quote on the home page:

Check Our Heads!

The pull quote you see here isn’t quite a quote; if you watch the video you’ll see they “punched it up” a bit. What he actually said was,

“It’s a reasoned faith. I don’t believe we should check our heads at the door when we go to church. That’s one of the reasons I’m a Presbyterian, I guess.”

I sighed when I read that, but the way the page looks, you can hope it’s dynamic content and different visitors will see different quotes. But so far, it appears to be stuck on this one. That’s regrettable.

Read the rest of this entry »

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New PC(USA) Site

Hey, cool. The PC(USA) has updated its website. It looks like a huge improvement over what we’ve had the last umpteen years. Congratulations to whoever put this together.

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PC(USA) ordains 1st Iranian Pastor

Hey, this is a small world. Mansour Khajehpour was just ordained by Seattle Presbytery as the first Iranian to become a PC(USA) minister of Word and sacrament.

I knew Mansour (a little) in seminary. He was in the class two years after mine, so we didn’t have any classes together. One of my kids was friends with one of his kid’s friends, though. They were in the building on the opposite side of Emmons Drive, facing Loetscher Place. Small world!

Congratulations to the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Scott, Kansas, where Mansour will serve.

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