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Divine-Human Synergism in Ministry

Dennis Bratcher

A paper presented to the Breckenridge Conference on Clergy Preparation

I. Introduction

II. Synergism: A Biblical and Theological Base

III. The Church's Mission and Ministry: A Recovery of Balance

IV. Divine-Human Synergism in Ministry

Footnotes

Bibliography

I. Introduction

The Issue In Context

The Church

In this series of conferences begun last year, we are in process of reflecting on the direction and focus of the ministry and ministerial training in the Church of the Nazarene as our community of faith moves into the twenty-first century. We have attempted to approach our task from two complimentary perspectives, caricatured last year as the "field" of hands-on work and the "realm" of reflective inquiry (although I think there are serious problems inherent in such an artificial dichotomy of responsibilities). -1-  From our initial attempts, it has become obvious that we face a multiplicity of issues in such an endeavor. The range and diversity of these issues arise partly from the variety of theological, historical, and practical concerns operating with each of us as individuals and partly from the assumptions and perspectives imported from particular arenas of ministry.

One common element that keeps reappearing in various forms is the issue of the nature and mission of the Church. This issue is not unique to our enterprise in these conferences, as the new eleventh Article of Faith on "The Church" adopted by the 1989 General Assembly demonstrates. Since the Church will be focus of one of our sessions in this conference, we have already realized that this issue is a crucial one if we are to understand what we should be about in ministry.

The topic for this morning's discussion is "Divine-Human Synergism in the Ministry." The topic could be taken in several directions. I have chosen to focus the issue of synergism in the ministry particularly in relation to the work and mission of the Church. Here I have in mind the Church in the sense of the People of God, the Body of Christ, "the community that confesses Jesus Christ as Lord." -2-  I also understand that we all minister in a particular historical expression of the Church, the Church of the Nazarene, and I will address issues and raise questions from that context.

The Questions

Considering what we understand to be the nature and mission of the Church, and considering the particularly Wesleyan theological perspective from which we work, what responsibilities do we, as human beings, have in ministry? What aspects of ministry do we control and are responsible for and what aspects does God control and is He responsible for? How, in what way, and to what extent, does God involve Himself in the work of the Church?

How do we integrate our obligation to be effective ministers with our trust in God that He will build His Church? What balance do we strike between our work and God's work to avoid the Scylla of reducing ministry to a technical craft that can best be done by technicians of efficiency and the Charybdis of unreflective enthusiasm that often expresses itself in spiritual escapism or disengagement from the world.

And in light of a major concern of these conferences, what responsibility do we have for the growth of the Church? How much do cultural or historical concerns dictate that responsibility and how much is driven by a clearly articulated understanding of the purpose and mission of the Church in the world? And how shall these issues affect how we train clergy for ministry?

Delimitations

Some parameters for my approach to this topic need to be delineated. A whole series of related issues could be addressed within the purview of this subject. However, some restrictions are necessary, for the sake of both time and sanity (yours and mine!).

I will not attempt to deal with methodological concerns: how to implement these views in a particular context. This may not please the technicians and may leave the presentation open to accusations of being too "imperial." It is true that ultimately any reflection about ministry has to be proven, or disproven, in ministry. However, persons of such diverse perspectives as Ray Anderson of Fuller Theological Seminary -3- and the Catholic reformer Edward Schillebeeckx -4- agree that ministry done apart from reflection about it is in danger of being distorted to the point of being unchristian.  Neither will I try to organize all the perspectives presented and relate them to other views to build an integrated theological system. This may not please the systematicians and may leave the presentation open to accusations of superficiality and narrowness of scope. However, I do not intend the positions taken in this paper to be normative or paradigmatic. They are intended to be reflective, the touchstone for continuing dialogue as this community of faith attempts to come to grips with who it is, where it is going, and what it intends to strive for in fulfillment of its reason for existing.

II. Synergism: A Biblical and Theological Base

Synergism from a Wesleyan Context

The idea of synergism, God cooperating with human beings, has sparked considerable theological debate in the history of the Church. Those in the Calvinist tradition have soundly rejected the idea because of various assumptions within their system that focus on the sovereignty of God and the incapability of human beings. From that perspective, synergism has usually been seen narrowly in the context of soteriology: the establishment of relationship with God.

The traditional position, with which Wesley himself would agree, is that human beings cannot initiate relationship with God. Wesley addresses this issue differently than the Calvinists, however. Rather than arguing for a monergism because of the total incapability of humans, Wesley responded with the doctrine of prevenient grace. This doctrine preserves God as the initiator of relationship while still allowing real human freedom, and some measure of human control, in response. -5- While the idea of prevenient grace is rooted in soteriology and the work of God in redemption and reconciliation, it has broad consequences in all other areas. -6-

The following discussion of synergism will be from this context of the Wesleyan idea of prevenient grace. Synergism, then, will be viewed as the outworking of God's grace in the life of human beings in such a way that they have the capability (Wesley's "can") and responsibility (Wesley's "must") of response to God. In particular, it will follow the Wesleyan perspective that God, through the working of the Holy Spirit, interacts with and enables human beings in all aspects of human existence as they respond to the working of God's grace. -7- As I hope to show, this has particular bearing on the topic of ministry in the Church.

Synergism and the Biblical Traditions

We must be honest enough to admit at the outset that Scripture does not directly address the issue of synergism in ministry, any more than it directly addresses ministry or the nature of the Church. Yet there are perspectives presented, perhaps we could even say truths about God revealed, that will give us a frame of reference for our discussion.  I have chosen to allow the Old Testament to frame this discussion simply to illustrate that it is sometimes helpful to draw on a wider range of our heritage than we are sometimes accustomed to doing.

I would like to deal with four examples from diverse biblical perspectives to illustrate how the biblical traditions viewed God at work in the community of faith: a historical example (Haggai and Zechariah); a theological trajectory (the concept of "God with Us"); the intellectual view (wisdom and the ethical traditions); and the perspective of the early Church (the concept of co-workers with God). Since this is not a biblical studies paper, however, I will only touch on the first, while keeping in mind the diversity with which the biblical traditions deal with the issue.

An Historical example: rebuilding the temple

After the Israelite return from Babylonian exile, the community of faith was in a desperate situation. The prophets had all promised a new day and a glorious future after exile. -8- They had expected God to bring the anticipated restoration of the Davidic kingdom as He had caused the return from exile. Yet, nearly twenty years after the first exiles returned home, the city of Jerusalem was still in ruins, the temple was still a blackened hulk, and the people were on the verge of despair. There was no new kingdom. The people were ready to give up on God because He had not done what they had expected. Into this situation came two prophetic voices, within a few years of each other.

About 520 BC the prophet Haggai brought a simple message to the despairing community of faith: proper priorities and a proper understanding of God demand action. If the community of faith expected God to work in their midst, they must be willing to do what they could do as well.

Haggai 1:7 Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared. 1:8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD. 1:9 You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses. (NRSV)

Haggai saw the return from exile as the work of God. He too anticipated the coming of a messianic kingdom. But he also saw the restoration of the temple, the city and the land as the work of the people. "If you want the new kingdom to come," Haggai said, "start by going up in the mountains and cutting down trees!"

Some have criticized Haggai as too prosaic, too concerned with the mechanics of temple building. Yet Haggai understood that if the community was to survive it had to be unified by a common purpose, by a set of clearly articulated goals that could be implemented in the nitty-gritty arena of daily living. The community could not function for long as the community of faith sitting around waiting for some new great act of God. It had to get on with being the people of God in real time in the real world.

Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai, at most no more than three or four years later. -9- He shared with Haggai the urgency of rebuilding the temple, of unifying the wavering community, of restoring the Davidic monarchy in a new kingdom. But Zechariah's approach was radically different. While Haggai had addressed the mechanics of cutting down trees (practice), Zechariah addressed the people's distorted attitude about God and His work in the world (theology).

Because of the traumatic events of the exile, the inflated expectations following the return, and their own scant resources, the people could see no purpose in rebuilding the temple. Their problem was not just a matter of the mechanics of temple building. This post-exilic community had lost sight of its reason for existing. They could no longer see how God could make any difference in their world because they could see no immediate, concrete results of being a community of faith. -10-

Zechariah laid a theological base for the restoration of the community and the building of the second temple. He called the people to a larger vision of who they were as God's people and who God was as a covenanting God. In highly poetic language, Zechariah described the community as the "apple of His eye" (2:8) and promised that God would be a wall of fire around them (2:4-5).

In a dramatic message to the leaders of the community, Zechariah assured them that God was indeed at work in their midst though what they had accomplished might have seemed insignificant.

Zechariah 4:6 Then he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts. 7 What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground; and he shall bring forward the capstone amid shouts of `God bless it! God bless it!'" 8 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9 "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 10 Who despises the day of small things? They shall rejoice when they see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel."

Zechariah understood that the community of faith existed in the world by God's choice and for His purposes (1:17). If it survived, it would be because of God's enabling presence in the community. This did not excuse the people from faithfulness to God. Zechariah called the people to accountability for how they lived out being God's people. -11-  But ultimately, the people were not responsible for the success of the community. That lay in God's hands.

Here we need to be careful that we do not divorce these two prophets and their perspectives from each other. They are speaking to the same community in the same historical context. Their messages are not mutually exclusive. In fact, when understood together, they are inextricably linked and provide a balanced perspective. This balance becomes an important principle for our present topic.

The community of faith must have a clear sense of who it is as the people of God, why it exists, what its mission is, and where its ultimate capability lies in accomplishing that mission. God is ultimately responsible for the success, or failure, of the community. Yet, at some point, the people must take responsibility for doing what needs to be done on their part to live out their mission in the world. The people must trust God for ultimate success while they go out to cut down trees. This is the principle of divine-human synergism.

This principle appears in several places in the New Testament. For example, Paul uses an agricultural metaphor to refer to the work of those in ministry in the Christian community: some plant, others water. But he stresses that it is God who gives the growth (1 Cor 3:5-9). It is significant that in this very passage Paul uses the phrase "co-workers of God" (GK: sunergos, from the same root as 'synergism'), to acknowledge that God works in and through the efforts of the servants of God (v. 5) in the community. -12-

Implications: A Theology of Presence

If we were to trace the other biblical perspectives that could be brought to bear on the issue of divine-human synergism, a variety of coherent perspectives would soon emerge. These would support and broaden the view just seen in Haggai and Zechariah. They can be summarized in three basic principles repeated in various ways throughout the biblical traditions.

1. There is a balance between God's work and our work in the world. God reveals Himself as God in the arena of human history, acting in ways that go beyond human capability. Yet clearly the people to whom He has revealed Himself are expected to respond to that revelation with a lifestyle that reflects their encounter with God. That lifestyle is always articulated in two dimensions: worship of God and service to humanity. -13-  Even when there is a future (eschatological) dimension, this balance is maintained. The people must cut down trees, but it is God who builds the temple.

2. God calls his people, both individually and communally, to accomplish tasks in the world. With that call, God enables His people to carry out His commission, to respond faithfully. This enablement goes by a variety of metaphors, symbols, and names in Scripture, -14- but is perhaps best articulated by the idea of the presence of God. -15-  Sometimes, as with the specific calls of the prophets, God gives the promise of His enabling presence, not to assure success in the task, but to assure faithful response to God. -16-  God's presence is not a power to be evoked, but a relationship to be lived. -17-

3. We, those created and called into community by God's gracious acts, are responsible and accountable for living properly in God's world. The Torah traditions emphasize proper worship and ritual, and a distinct lifestyle. The prophetic traditions emphasize social justice and ethics practiced as compassion. The wisdom traditions emphasize the reverence of God and ethics practiced as virtuous lifestyle. The Gospels combine the wisdom and prophetic emphasis on ethics with a reenergized concern with internalized Torah. The epistles stress the depth of relationship with God. These affirm responsibility in relationship.

III. The Church's Mission and Ministry: A Recovery of Balance

These principles of divine-human synergism drawn from the biblical traditions provide a frame of reference in which to consider ministry in the Church.

But before we can adequately discuss ministry, we need to examine what the mission of the Church entails, because ministry cannot be divorced from mission. To attempt ministry without careful consideration of how that ministry should be shaped by mission is to run the risk of "succeeding" in ministry without ever truly being what we exist to be as God's Church, as the people of God in the world. To act as if the mission of the Church is identical with what we have always assumed it to be or what the winds and waves of culture dictate it ought be, is to run the risk of doing the ministry of the Church on our own terms apart from God.

It seems that the mission of the Church, and therefore its ministry in the world, would be readily understood and easily defined. If we were to poll a number of average Nazarenes (assuming there is such a creature -18-) asking what the mission of the Church is in the world, I suspect that the answer would be phrased overwhelmingly in terms of the Great Commission of Matthew 28: "Go and make disciples." This would then be articulated in terms of evangelism and missionary activity with the aim of converting the "lost." With "conversion" understood as the singular mission of the Church in the world, ministry and the work of the Church would then be geared to accomplishing that goal.

The methodology employed would be seen in classic revivalist models, with heavy emphasis on "evangelistic" preaching, altar calls and personal testimony. The responsibility for results would lie heavily upon the personal piety or techniques of the evangelist/minister or on the proper method of evoking a decision. This type of revivalism is often emphasized without any clear understanding of the historically conditioned nature of this method of fulfilling the Church's mission. -19-

In this model, the Church is seen as the "ark of salvation" for the world. When that idea of mission is filtered through the revivalist methodology, the efforts of ministry are to get as many people into the ark as possible. The number of persons "saved" then becomes the criterion of success in mission. While an extreme example, this mentality was illustrated graphically within the last three years as I heard a preacher (he happened to be a Nazarene evangelist) give an invitation to accept Jesus as Lord with the motivation that he only needed X more number of people coming to the altar to reach his goal of conversions for the year.-20-

I fear this approach reflects more of the success oriented, growth driven consumer mentality of our modern culture than it does any clear understanding of what the Church should be about in the world. And it also reflects influence from a theological orientation that, at best, is marginal to Wesleyan emphases. This view of the Church's mission often results in an imbalance of emphasis in one of the two directions we have already observed. On the one hand there can be a preoccupation with the mechanics, logistics, and methods of producing results. Success measured by numbers fosters an attitude that requires production, and efficiency in production, of new converts. -21-  Ministry can then be reduced to implementation of proper technique to generate growth in the most efficient way. The "career" potential of a minister can hang on how well he can produce. The imbalance here is on the side of human work in ministry, assuming that when the trees are cut down and the building is built, nothing else needs to happen. -22-

On the other hand there can be a withdrawal from any activity of ministry that does not directly produce converts. Here, "converts" usually means people who join "us" and become like "us." This "us-them" mentality potentially cuts the Church off from any real contact with the world. This, in turn, can develop into a false piety that abdicates responsibility for the world outside the community of faith. This way of thinking frequently maintains that if any revival is to come or any converts made, it must be the work of God in some supernatural manifestation since it sees the Church as isolated and impotent in an evil world. The imbalance here is on the side of God's work in ministry, assuming that if God wants a temple he will build it himself and set it down in the midst of the community. -23-

Here let me carefully and emphatically say that I am not suggesting the mission and ministry of the Church excludes missionary work or evangelism. I will suggest, however, that our "traditional" (and I use this term guardedly) ideas of evangelism and missionary work may be only one aspect of the mission of the Church in the world. Our resurrection of Wesley's social ethic, now called "compassionate ministries," confirms a growing awareness of a need for recovery of balance here. I will suggest that perhaps we have confused proximate and ultimate goals in ministry. The Church needs to recover a balance, first in terms of its mission as the people of God in the world, and second in terms of the practice of ministry considering that mission. These have significant implications for the application of the idea of synergism to the ministry.

The People of God

Among the variety of metaphors that could be applied to the Church, I would identify the idea of "people of God" as best typifying the essential nature and function of the Church as it exists in the world. While the exact expression "people of God" is not a common Biblical phrase, -24- the idea occurs on all levels of biblical tradition. It is most well known in the Old Testament in the covenant formula: "I will be your God and you shall be My people." In the New Testament it occurs in the word ekklesia, the "church" as the assembly of the faithful. -25- There are three facets to this concept of "people of God," all of which must be seen in categories of relationship and interaction.

Community As Response to God

First we have to take seriously the witness of the biblical community (or communities, both Old and New Testament) that it arose as a response to an encounter with God. There have been attempts to explain the existence of the people of Israel or the Church exclusively in terms of historical, social or psychological terms. But if we are to place any credence in the witness of the community itself, it came into being in response to a God who heard the cries of oppressed slaves, in response to a God who entered human history and revealed himself as a God of mercy and grace. -26- This means that, above all, the people of God exist at God's initiative and on God's terms. The community so constituted will always exist in historically conditioned forms. -27- It cannot but exist in the world as a human institution (or institutions) subject to the vagaries of human folly and historical coincidence. But its essential character and its reason for being lie in the fact that it exists as a response to God's creative actions of grace. As such, its first allegiance, its primary responsibility, is faithful response to God.

Individuals in Community

An equally essential aspect of this concept of "people of God" is the idea of community. The people of God exist as individuals in community, a group of people bound together in common experience, sharing a common purpose, living in a world that requires interaction with other persons both within and without the faith community.

This is such an obvious statement that we run the risk of missing its significance. Our culture, at least in the Western World, is so dominated by individualism that we often find it difficult to think communally. -28-  If we are to recover a balance of perspective for the mission of the Church and for our work in ministry, I think we must recover, or at least rearticulate, an understanding of the thoroughly communal nature of our community of faith.

This means that individuals in the community of faith cannot separate their response to God from their communal life. The people of God must live out, on a day to day basis, even moment to moment, in real time, in the real world, what it means to be the people of God. The Old Testament, and even modern Judaism, calls this "doing Torah," a lifestyle lived out in the world as a response to God. This is the thrust of Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and in Paul's repeated call to "Walk [live a lifestyle] in a manner worthy of your calling." -29-

Community with a Mission

This emphasis upon lifestyle, how the people of God live in the world as people of God, brings us to the third aspect of the concept. It is the idea of mission, why God has chosen to elect or create the people of God. -30-  The mission of the people of God is expressed in various ways in different biblical traditions. The Patriarchal narratives express it in terms of being the agent of blessing to the world. -31-  The prophets, and Jesus, speak of "doing justice," of feeding the hungry, of defending the powerless, of being a light to the nations, of being salt and leaven, the agent by which the world is transformed. -32-

However it is expressed, it is clear that the mission of the people of God is to live a lifestyle that will be transformative in the world. -33-  They are to reflect in their daily living the radically transforming nature of the God whom they have encountered. -34-  By an obedient lifestyle in response to God they are to demonstrate, to bear witness to, the kind of God whom they serve, the God who calls them to live by a different set of standards and by a different ordering of power than the world around them. -35-  There is no other-worldly emphasis here, no preparation for the life hereafter. They are simply to be, actively and passively, God's people in the world. And the means for doing that is always expressed in terms of concrete, daily living. -36-

The Ministry and Mission of The Church

In light of all this I would like to summarize what I understand to be the mission of the Church in the world, as the basis for presenting some possible answers to the questions about divine-human synergism in the ministry. They fall into three areas that correspond generally to the three aspects of the idea of the Church as the people of God. Most of what is said here about the Church can also be applied in the context of a local congregation or in the life of an individual in the community of faith.

These are not meant to be exhaustive nor paradigmatic and are certainly open to challenge. I claim no authority for them beyond my own reflection.

The Building Up/Growth of the Church: Growing Into the Stature of Christ

The primary task of the Church in the world is to respond to God who by His grace, mercy, and freedom has created the community. Here both Old and New Testament writers apply the twin metaphors of building and growth to the people of God. -37-   But it is crucial to note that neither of these metaphors refers exclusively, or even primarily, to the numerical increase of the community. -38-   They refer rather to the upbuilding of the community in the things of God, the response of service/worship to God. This must of necessity begin as gratitude, acknowledging God as God and as the source of emancipating grace through the revelation of Himself. -39-

This also encompasses the idea of the communio sanctorum ("fellowship of the saints") as the community confesses its faith, offers penitence and thanksgiving to God, presents praise vocal or silent to the Creator and Father God, participates in the liturgical reenactment of the historical moments of grace, hears again in Scripture reading the witness of past communities of faith, shares the burdens of a hurting community and world in prayer and intercession, hopes for the restored reign of God in the world, and proclaims the message of reconciliation by which the community has been created. -40-  This is not a call for the Church to be an inward-turned Holy Club existing only for itself. But it must take worship, in its manifold forms and on its most profound level as service to God, as embodying the very essence of its existence.

Also included here would be the spiritual growth or maturing that must occur in the context of Christian community, both for the community as a whole and for individuals within the community. This is an authentic piety that reflects a life transformed by encounter with God. Paul described this, still using growth metaphors, as growing "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:13). This is the thrust of the primary imperative in the Great Commission of Matthew 28: "make disciples." -41-  This intensive growth, as Karl Barth described it, is the primary mission of the Church. -42-

Being (Doing) the People of God in the world

Inseparably related to this vertical task of the Church is its horizontal role as servant to the world. -43-  As intensive, vertical growth occurs in the maturing and nurturing of relationship with God, there is a corresponding increase in awareness of this servant vocation. In both Old and New Testaments the imagery of servant defines and shapes how the people of God are to relate both to each other within the community and to the goy, the ethna, the people not in the community of faith. -44-

Here the biblical mandate is unequivocal, unambiguous, and permeates both Testaments. The people of God are called to be both servants of God and servants of their fellow humans. -45- The people of God, the Church, is both responsible and accountable for their service on both vertical and horizontal planes. This service, or servanthood, cannot be self-motivated, institutionally motivated, or even motivated by ideals of humanitarianism or egalitarianism. It must be totally other-centered, seeking no reward, no affirmation, no acknowledgement, motivated only by the response to God which acknowledges His Lordship and His call to live as His people. -46- The manner of service will take different forms in different times and in different cultural situations, because it is driven by the needs of people and communities. In this, the Church will always have to set priorities of how the Church will serve. This is part of the task of ministry. But whether to serve the world in this totally self-emptying manner can never be up for debate. It is an essential element of being the people of God.

The Missionary/Evangelism Mandate

This brings us to the third aspect of the mission of the Church: its evangelism/missionary mandate. As I have maintained, nothing of the above negates this mandate of the Church. But it does put it in a slightly different light than we may be accustomed.

In my opinion, here lies one of the greatest dangers concerning the mission and thereby the ministry of the Church. We have too often assumed that our traditional revivalist activities and emphasis on conversion fulfilled our responsibility for both service to God and service to others. -47-  Or we have assumed that these are optional or secondary, especially secondary to evangelism. In fact, both are primary, comprising the essential mission of the Church. There are far more calls to this kind of service in the Bible than there are calls to evangelize!

Here the Church must be faithful to its calling and mission. It is called primarily to service, first to God and secondly to the world. The Church must expend its energy, direct its practice, and train its people in this service. The Church cannot calculate what kind of service it will perform in order to achieve the most results (as the technicians of efficiency might suggest). It cannot use vertical, intensive growth as a technique for producing numerical growth (as the "charismatic" mentality sometimes promotes). It cannot confuse proximate with ultimate goals (as the revivalist tradition has often done).

The Church must trust God that as it is obedient to its calling, to its mission as the people of God, that God Himself will use its service as His own vehicle of revelation to the world. The service of the Church to the world thus becomes a means by which God extends His grace in a concrete way to draw persons unto himself. -48-   It is in this obedience to its calling that the Church becomes a witness to its God and His transforming power. -49-  As it is the people of God, as it does Torah, it becomes a model, a representation, a sign of His kingdom on earth. -50-  As the community cuts down trees, God builds his temple and brings His Kingdom!

In all of this the Church must also proclaim its message of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of comfort, of hope. The message, the evangelistic message, is proclaimed by words, yes. But the proclamation of the message of the Kingdom is comprised of more than words. Perhaps to an even greater degree it is proclaimed by the very existence of the Church living out its mission as the people of God in the world through the lives of transformed sinners serving God and neighbor. -51- This the real thrust of the metaphors for the Church in Matthew 5, verses 15-16: a city set on a hill, a light shining in the darkness, a candle on a candlestick. -52-

The Church must grow numerically to continue carrying out its mission of service to God and the world. Extensive growth, numerical growth is an expected, and often realized, result of a church that is fulfilling its mission as the people of God. But we dare not confuse proximate with ultimate goals, we dare not confuse the means with the end. The Church must fulfill its mission, it must be faithful and obedient, whether it grows numerically or not. There is no guarantee that faithfulness in mission will produce converts. In fact, there is sufficient evidence in Scripture from both testaments to affirm that this will not always be the case. -53-

Therefore, success in mission does not automatically translate into numerical growth, and conversely numerical growth does not always indicate success in mission. The variable here is not necessarily the skill or technique of the one ministering. It is more a matter of the content of his ministry and the receptivity and willingness of the receiver to respond. -54- If we do not take this fact seriously, we run the risk of putting the burden of proof on the method rather than on the message, or on the technique used to evoke a response rather than the sincerity of the response itself. This is the problem with the manipulative techniques of some revivalist preaching or the canned sales pitch approach of some "soul-winning" programs. -55-

One of the worst management techniques in ministry is to set standards of success measured by production. This can become an albatross around the neck of young pastors who are forced to produce as a measure of worth and success in ministry. -56-   The problem is compounded when we realize the kind of small churches in which many young ministers are placed. This seems to violate the biblical principle of one planting, another watering, and God giving the growth (1 Cor 3:6).

The Church does have an evangelism/missionary mandate. But perhaps it needs to be rearticulated, redefined in terms of the overarching mission of the Church. Conversion at an altar or personal testimony and persuasion may no longer be the primary definition of the evangelism mandate. Evangelism is not the ultimate goal, nor the entire mission, nor the most important activity of the Church. Yet, in a broader sense, it encompasses everything the Church is and does. -57-

IV. Divine-Human Synergism in Ministry

Our questions were these: In light of what we understand to be the nature and mission of the Church, what responsibilities do we have in ministry? What aspects of ministry do we control and are responsible for and what aspects does God control and is He responsible for? How, in what way, and to what extent, does God involve Himself in the work of the Church? What responsibility do we have for the growth of the Church? And how shall these issues affect how we train clergy for ministry?

Suggestions for Reflection: The Balance in Ministry

I do not pretend to have answers to all, or even one, of these questions. But I will offer three suggestions, two positive and one negative, based on my reflections.

The responsibility of service to God

It seems to me that our primary responsibility for ministry in the Church revolves around fulfilling its mission. This would include the proper training, maturity, leadership, and spirituality to call and guide the people of God into faithful response to Him. The most important thing a minister should do is to lead the people in authentic worship/service to God. This involves far more than the Sunday morning service of worship. It encompasses the entire range of spiritual growth, nurture, and upbuilding of the community in intensive growth. We are directly responsible for faithfulness in calling the people, by proclamation, by nurturing, by teaching, and by example, to be the people of God. Especially from the perspective of the Wesleyan tradition, we must trust God to use this service. And we must trust the people to respond as God calls them to Himself.

The responsibility of service to the world

Secondly, we are responsible for service to our world. This is a broad area; wisdom and discretion are necessary in deciding how best to accomplish this service. But we are responsible, and accountable, for doing it. The mandate here is governed by human need. It is not enough to pronounce blessings on those around us in the name of God and not move to meet the basic human needs that they have.

The Church cannot possibly meet all of the material and physical needs of those it encounters. There are a wide range of secular and government agencies who also strive to alleviate those needs. The Church cannot compete on that level. But it should not abdicate its responsibility simply because others are also doing it! The human needs of our neighbors go far beyond mere material needs both in depth and extent. Who is better able and better equipped to offer comfort, direction, counsel, acceptance, affirmation, and hope, than the community of those who have encountered the God who is the author of those things?

The Church, both corporately and individually, must not only advocate a lifestyle of service, it must practice it. In so far as it does, it is the people of God.

The growth of the community

The final suggestion is a negative one; I will suggest something for which we are not responsible in ministry. We are not responsible for numerical growth. We must take seriously the various biblical perspectives that affirm that it is by the spirit of God that the temple is built, that it is God who builds His Church.

Let me quickly qualify this perspective by recalling that when the people of God are authentically the people of God in the world, there is a ministry to the world that has the potential for extensive, numerical growth. Conversion, people coming to faith in God through Jesus Christ, is an outgrowth of the Church being the people of God in the world. If no one ever responds to the One to whom the people of God are bearing witness, then there might be questions raised whether the community of faith is living out its mission.

Yet, it will not always be so. The pervasiveness and reality of sin in our world, and the radical call to discipleship and servanthood that lie at the heart of the Christian message, work against the Church ever achieving astounding success at extensive growth. -58-  The Church simply cannot bring about the Kingdom by its own efforts at numerical increase. -59-  We feel a sadness and loss because this is so, but we do not despair. And we dare not be something other than, or less than, the people of God in the attempt.

We are responsible for being the people of God, authentically, dynamically, vitally, and obediently. That is our part in ministry. We cut down trees. But we are not responsible for the result of that obedience in the world. -60-  It is God who works in the hearts of people, by his grace, to call them to encounter and reconciliation to Himself. It is God who takes our service to Him and to the world and uses it in His own way. That is God's part in ministry. By His Spirit, He builds the temple and brings about the Kingdom.

Implications for Theological Education

I will conclude by briefly suggesting three ways in which all of this might affect theological education and the preparation of clergy for ministry in the Church. -61-

The need for vision

To me, one of the primary functions of theological education is to fire within students a vision for transforming the world. Theological education should strike a spark of wonder at the transforming power of God's grace at work through the earthen vessels of very fallible human beings gathered as the people of God, as the communio sanctorum. It should also provide the tools and some raw materials through biblical and theological study that will allow the student in the course of his ministry to fan that spark into a light brilliant enough to be seen by the world. It is that light, that passion, that he communicates to the people as he calls them to intensive growth in the things of God. It is that light which becomes Isaiah's light to the world.

This begins with an awareness of God, with a sense of worship, with a recognition that we are part of the communio sanctorum, the people of God. Theological education is not about the teaching of techniques, management principles, political structures, logistics of ministry, or a variety of other related topics, as important as they are. It is about lighting a fire for the mission of the Church in the world and a ministry that will fulfill that mission. -62-

This is idealistic and I freely, and positively, acknowledge it to be so. Perhaps in our zeal to prepare the young minister for the 'realities' of the ministry, we have not been careful enough to nurture, or even kindle, their vision. -63-

The need for fluency in culture

With the mission of the Church as the people of God in view, it becomes imperative that the minister be fluent in the culture around him. Any program of education or form of training that lessens her exposure to the broad range of society is debilitating to the minister and shortchanges the Church. The churches of the twenty-first century will be increasingly multifarious and diverse, even in smaller communities. We can no longer assume an homogeneous congregation, either in race, ethnic background, economic status, regional subculture, family-unit makeup, or a dozen other monolithic categories to which we are accustomed.

Human need will demand that the minister be able to function with highly educated professionals as well as blue collar workers and welfare mothers, not to mention the farmer with a graduate degree in agronomy and a six figure income. This calls for as broad-based an education as possible. Our ancestors in the faith of the Church of the Nazarene understood this well when they established liberal arts education as the norm for pastoral training. While various tracks in preparation may remain an option, any move away from this primary commitment to broad based, liberal arts education for our ministers runs the risk of narrowing their sphere of influence in a rapidly changing world. This would diminish their capacity to minister to the diversity of the twenty-first century Church.

The need for more integrated training

Finally, the challenges facing our society, and our world, are becoming increasingly far-ranging and complex. There are issues facing our society with which the Church must grapple if it is to be the people of God in the world. There are several areas, bio-medical ethics for one, in which the Church, for a variety of reasons, has virtually lost the opportunity for constructive input.

Also, it is an acknowledged trend that the stress levels of our society are increasing rapidly. Family problems and divorce, teen sexual activity, drug use and suicide, the AIDS crisis, New Age ethics, and a host of other problems are creating a multitude of persons in crisis. The extent and depth of human need on just the emotional and spiritual levels is staggering.

The Church cannot despair of any solution and retreat in spiritual escapism and pray "Beam us up, Lord." Nor can it stick its head in the sand and attempt to retreat to a mode of operation that only works with the lovable, problemless, two parent-families of suburbia.

If our ministers are to lead the Church in being the people of God, they will need a more integrated education than in the past. There will need to be more attention given to areas like sociology, psychology and sociology of religion, and counseling. We cannot train ministers to be professionals in these areas and they should not attempt to be. -64-  But a more integrated approach to pastoral training is crucial if the Church is truly going to meet the world. Unless our courses in evangelism and church growth somehow address these issues of human need, they risk being little   more than an exercise in technique.

We may have to give up some of our time-honored "sacred cows" to accomplish this. We may have to rethink exactly what should be taught and how. But whatever decisions are made and whatever direction theological education goes, we must allow the mission of the Church as the people of God to be the governing factor. We must remember the difference between cutting down trees and building the Kingdom!

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2013 , Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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Footnotes

1. For a discussion of the problems inherent in the traditional division between "theology" and "practics" see Larry Lavelle, "Excellence in Ministry: A New Conceptual Model for the Theory and Practice of Parish Ministry," in Clergy Growth and Church Vitalization. Edited by Paul Dietterich. Fifth Report of the Waterloo District of the United Methodist Church's Experiment in District Revitalization. Naperville, Ill.: Center for Parish Development, 1979, 21-41. [return]

2. Manual: Church of the Nazarene, 1989. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 1989, 35. ". . .[a] body of people, united together in the service of God." John Wesley, "Of the Church," in Wesley's Works, 3rd edition, vol. 6. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 1979 [Reprinted from the 1872 edition], 392. [return]

3. Anderson views ministry as primary and theological reflection as secondary, which allows him to make such statements as: ". . .ministry precedes and produces theology, not the reverse. . . .Theology, thus, serves as the handmaid of ministry. . . .Ministry cannot be construed solely as the practical application (or technique) that makes theological knowledge relevant and effective. Theological activity must emerge out of ministry and for the sake of ministry. . . ." Ray S. Anderson, "A Theology for Ministry," in Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology of the Church in Ministry. Edited by Ray Anderson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, 7. However, this entire essay is an exercise in theological reflection about ministry that Anderson feels is essential to correct some potentially unchristian practices and approaches to ministry. [return]

4. "The actual practice of Christian communities . . .is the interpretandum, i.e. what must be justified in theory, or can perhaps be criticized. For the theologian, what is called Christian practice is never a direct norm, but the agenda, i.e. that which he or she must clarify secundum scripturas. . . . On its side, practice must never wait for the permission of theologians before it gets going. That is certainly true. Whether justifiably or not, practice follows from faith (i.e. the spontaneous or implicit 'theory'), and so practice does not precede faith, but theology. However, the theologian must make a reflective investigation of the very 'spontaneity' of this practice of faith, because this spontaneity can unconsciously admit uncritical elements. . . . [The theologian] is extremely necessary and irreplaceable, especially when it comes to demonstrating in a rational way whether this practice is authentically Christian." Edward Schillebeeckx, The Church With A Human Face: A New and Expanded Theology of Ministry. New York: Crossroad, 1985, 10-11. [return]

5. "This is in contrast to a monergistic interpretation, which sees the Spirit seizing persons and producing certain results more or less automatically, irrespective of the person's nature, understanding, or input. In such cases men become inert beings rather than rational, active partners in the encounter." H. Ray Dunning, Grace, Faith and Holiness: A Wesleyan Systematic Theology. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 1988, 429. [return]

6. "Traditionally, Wesleyans have developed the idea of prevenient grace exclusively in terms of soteriological considerations, and ultimately, as we have noted, it must focus there. But Wesley himself treated it in a broader way, and we are proposing in this analysis to use it as an ontological as well as an epistemological principle of interpretation. In this way it becomes the most pervasive aspect of our suggested norm. . . .it is so distinctively Wesleyan that it may profitably be applied to all doctrines." H. Ray Dunning, Grace, Faith and Holiness: A Wesleyan Systematic Theology. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 1988, 49-50. [return]

7. Wesley himself applied this idea in a variety of contexts. For example, in his sermon "On Working Out Our Own Salvation" from Philippians 2:12-13, he referred to both the "can" (capability) and the "must" (responsibility) of response to God's grace. He used this idea of "working together with Him" as the basis for an appeal to both deeds of piety and (fasting, scripture reading, partaking of the Lord's Supper) and deeds of mercy ("do good unto all men"). John Wesley, "On Working Out Our Own Salvation," in Wesley's Works, 3rd edition, vol. 6. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 1979 [Reprinted from the 1872 edition], 506-513. [return]

8. Ezekiel spoke of a glorious new earthly kingdom to be established once the people returned to the land (Ezek 37). Exilic Isaiah, using the idea of God as Creator, proclaimed the decree of Cyrus in 538 as a day of new things in which Jerusalem would be restored and the wealth of the earth would stream to her as all nations acknowledged Yahweh as God of all the earth (Isa 42-43, 44-45). Jeremiah had promised a new covenant and anticipated the reunification of the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel (Jer 30-31). [return]

9. Here I have in mind the dated sections of Zechariah (1-8). Chapters 9-14 probably come from a later period. [return]

10. This was a continuing problem for the post-exilic community. Malachi, some seventy years later, was still dealing with it: "Your words have been strong against me," says the Lord. Yet you say, "How have we spoken against you?" You have said, "There is no purpose in serving God. What is the good of our keeping his charge or of walking in mourning before the Lord of Hosts?" (Mal 3:13-15) [return]

11. Note the typical prophetic concern with communal ethics and social justice in Zech 7:8-10. [return]

12. Other New Testament references to the idea of "co-workers with God" include (sunergos, noun form) Rom 16:3, 9, 21; 1 Thess 3:2 and (sunergo, verbal form) Mark 16:20; 2 Cor 6:1; note also 2 Cor 5:20-21. [return]

13. It is interesting to note here that in Hebrew the same word means both 'worship' and 'service' (`abodah). [return]

14. Metaphors: fire, smoke, wind, glory, messenger. Symbols: king, shepherd, creator, servant. Names: Ha Shem (the Name), YHVH, 'Ehyeh (I AM, Ex 3:14), Holy Spirit. [return]

15. Under the rubric "Presence," Samuel Terrien has cogently captured the tension between the direct activity of God in the world and the more subtle 'enablement' that comes as a result of that encounter. Samuel Terrien, The Elusive Presence: The Heart of Biblical Theology. Religious Perspectives 26. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983. [return]

16. This is especially evident in the personal lament traditions of Jeremiah (Jer 11:18-12:6; 15:10-21; 17:14-18; 18:18-23; 20:7-18), although it also appears in other places (Isaiah 6:1-13; Ezek 12:1-6; Amos 7:10-17; Matt 10:1-42; Luke 10:1-16). Much of the Abraham tradition articulates this dimension of faithfulness in the face of apparent failure (Gen 15:1-6; 17; 22). This theme is understated but integral to a range of biblical traditions, as, for example, in the Elijah narratives (1 Kings 19:1-18) and the Pauline letters (1 Cor 12:1-13). [return]

17. This is the real theological thrust of the concept of "God with us." This phrase occurs in various forms in both testaments over one hundred times: Gen 21:22, Exod 3:12, Num 14:9, Matt 1:23, John 8:29, 1 Cor 15:10, etc. [return]

18. I will readily and quickly concede the pluralistic nature of the Church of the Nazarene, so that it is difficult to speak of an "average" Nazarene. I am responding here specifically to perceptions of the Church's purpose and mission as articulated on a popular level in the Southern and Southwestern part of the United States. This view is also common in other areas, as well. I am aware that there are varied views in different geographical areas and in different subcultures in the same area. [return]

19. It is beyond the scope of this paper to deal with the historical factors lying behind the emergence of revivalism. For a limited historical survey from the perspective of the Protestant ministry, see Sidney E. Mead, "The Rise of the Evangelical Conception of the Ministry in America: 1607-1850," and Robert S. Michaelsen, "The Protestant Ministry in America: 1850-1950," both in The Ministry in Historical Perspectives. Edited by H. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel Williams. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983 [1956], 207-249 and 250-287. [return]

There is no doubt that most of the practices of the Church have been conditioned historically. There is no other way for the Church to exist in the world. A danger arises, however, when the historically conditioned forms of the Church and its ministry become paradigmatic as God's truth. This danger, from a Roman Catholic perspective, is a crucial concern for Schillebeeckx in a series of books. See Edward Schillebeeckx, Ministry: Leadership in the Community of Jesus Christ. New York: Crossroad, 1981; The Church With A Human Face: A New and Expanded Theology of Ministry. New York: Crossroad, 1985. The same concern is addressed from the opposite end of the spectrum, the charismatic renewal movement, by Howard Snyder in The Problem Of Wineskins: Church Structure in A Technological Age. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975 and The Community of the King, Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977.

20. I do NOT have this documented; I only remember the episode. I will readily concede that this is an extreme example and there are many in the Church, both laity and clergy, who would quickly denounce such techniques. However, that this idea can be proclaimed publicly without challenge in our churches illustrates my point. And I could recount other less severe, although similar, incidents. [return]

21. Donald MacGavran, Effective Evangelism: A Theological Mandate. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1988. In this book "effective" refers almost exclusively to numerical growth, confirmed by the repeated contrast with "small" churches who do not have "effective" evangelism programs (e.g., p. 4). While the Church Growth movement in general has been criticized for an unhealthy preoccupation with numerical growth, it should be noted that MacGavran attempts to mitigate this at several points in the book (e.g., pp. 34ff). [return]

22. Richard Niebuhr, specifically speaking of theological education, labeled this mentality as "confusing proximate with ultimate goals." H. Richard Niebuhr, The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry: Reflections on the Aims of Theological Education. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956, 39. Brueggemann calls this ". . .shameless scientism which knows no limits, which bows before no mystery, and which reduces all of life to a technique." Walter Brueggemann, The Creative Word: Canon As A Model for Biblical Education. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982, 74. [return]

Ray Anderson maintains that this mentality, even among conservative evangelicals, is a result of the sometimes unconscious adoption of Cartesian and Kantian rationalistic principles into ministry. "The world sets the agenda for the church, and all things become true to the extent that they are useful and actually work. Hence, utilitarianism and pragmatism become prevalent in the literature of the church concerning its ministry in the world." Ray S. Anderson, "A Theology for Ministry," in Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology of the Church in Ministry. Edited by Ray Anderson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, 10.

23. This view can be expressed in a variety of ways in different traditions: legalistic fundamentalism, apocalyptic escapism, charismatic Pentecostalism, etc. Brueggemann characterizes this mentality as ". . .abdicating obscurantism which refuses to know, or think, or take responsibility," Walter Brueggemann, The Creative Word: Canon As A Model for Biblical Education. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982, 74. An interesting hybrid occurs when the pragmatic revivalist adopts a charismatic approach to evangelism, as seen in the following quote from a well-know evangelist in the Church of the Nazarene: "There is no movement of the Spirit in the churches I go to; I have to generate it." [I have this documented on audio tape, but will refrain from identifying the individual.] [return]

24. The particular formulation occurs in only a handful of passages: Judg 20:2; 2 Sam 14:13; Heb 4:9; 11. [return]

25. 1 Pet 2:10. 25. The ancient creedal formulation of the Church as the communio sanctorum, the fellowship/communion of the saints, well exemplifies the Church as the people of God. The communio sanctorum implies a connection between the community and the action of God in constituting that community. It also encompasses the dimension of mission that is crucial to the idea of people of God. See Karl Barth, "The Holy Spirit and the Gathering of the Christian Community," in Church Dogmatics, Vol. 4, Part 1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Translated by G. W. Bromiley. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961 [1956], 641-676.  For other models of the Church and evaluations of their value, see Avery Dulles, Models of the Church. Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1972. [return]

26. "We must realize that the term people of God does not refer to anything of our own making. . .It points first of all to the one who gathers, sanctifies, and enlightens people of all nations and of all ethnic and religious origins. At the beginning of any consideration of the whole people of God we must first reflect upon the nature of the church as it expresses itself in the will of its founder, namely, God in Christ through the power of the Spirit. This does not render irrelevant the institutional church. . . Yet it must constantly be measured, criticized, and realigned according to the will of its founder." Hans Schwarz, Responsible Faith: Christian Theology in the Light of 20th-Century Questions. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986, 295-296. See also Paul Hanson, The People Called: The Growth of Community in the Bible. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986, 69. [return]

27. Here we could become entangled in the debate over the distinctions between the "visible" and the "invisible" Church. However, for our purposes such distinctions are not particularly helpful, even if they could be made. [return]

28. Robert Bellah, et al., Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985; from a different perspective Harvey Cox, The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective. New York: Macmillan, 1965; Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and Its Confrontation With American Society. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983; William Dryness, How Does America Hear the Gospel? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989. [return]

29. Jesus: Matthew 5-7, especially 5:13-16; 6:1-34; 7:12. Paul: Eph 4:1; Phil 1:27; Col 1:10; 1 Thess 2:12. [return]

30. H. Ray Dunning has an excellent section on this idea in Grace, Faith and Holiness: A Wesleyan Systematic Theology. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 1988, 507f. [return]

31. Gen 12:3; cf. Isa 19:24-25. While I would not agree with his methodology of biblical interpretation, John Stott has correctly understood the sense of mission to the world inherent in the Abraham narratives. John W. Stott, "The Living God Is a Missionary God," in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader. Edited by Ralph Winter and Steven Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1981, 10-18. [return]

32. A wide range of biblical passages could be brought to bear on this point. Some of the more well known are Micah 6:8; Amos 5:24; Isaiah 1:16-17; 58:6-12; Matthew 25:31-45. Walter Kaiser, Jr., briefly refers to others in "Israel's Missionary Call," in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader. Edited by Ralph Winter and Steven Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1981, 25-34. [return]

33. This transformation is not only the mission of the Church, but also what the minister should be about in ministry. See, Walter Brueggemann, "The Transformative Agenda of the Pastoral Office," in Interpretation and Obedience: From Faithful Reading to Faithful Living. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991, 161-183. [return]

34. "Chosen by God to become the special recipients of his mercy and justice, Israel now has the corresponding duty to live as the people of God among the other nations in order to show them his grace, mercy, justice, and liberating power." Johannes Verkuyl, "The Biblical Foundation for the Worldwide Mission Mandate," in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader. Edited by Ralph Winter and Steven Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1981, 38. [return]

35. Walter Brueggemann's basic conception of the role of the Church in the world is to give human beings a vision of what life can be like freed from the oppression of misdirected power, variously called the "royal" mentality or the "empire." The work of the Church is to call people to relationship with God by working to obviate the effects of the oppression of the empire. This is a major theme in several of Brueggemann's books: Living Toward A Vision: Biblical Reflections on Shalom, Philadelphia: United Church Press, 1976; The Prophetic Imagination, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978; Interpretation and Obedience, Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991. [return]

36. "God's purpose for the world, articulated in the grand themes of the saving narratives and the prophetic promises, is that the world should come to freedom, justice, and equity. Biblical articulations of God's purpose, however, do not stay with grand themes. The will of God is more precisely articulated in quite concrete commandments that require and demand specific actions in the service of the grand vision. The dynamic of biblical faith requires that the command should always be rearticulated for specific times, places, and circumstances." Walter Brueggemann, Finally Comes the Poet: Daring Speech for Proclamation. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989, 79. [return]

37. Jeremiah uses both metaphors together to refer to the restoration of the community following the exile: Jere 1:10; 18:9, 24:6, etc. The two metaphors also occur together in the New Testament: 1 Peter 2:2-5; Eph 2:13-22; 4:11-16, as well as in 1 Cor 3:9 with the assertion that "we are co-workers with God." Note also Matt 16:18; Acts 20:32; Col 1:3-10; Heb 3:3-4. [return]

38. For a discussion of these metaphors, see See Karl Barth, "The Holy Spirit and the Gathering of the Christian Community," in Church Dogmatics, Vol. 4, Part 1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Translated by G. W. Bromiley. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961 [1956], 644ff. [return]

39. W. A. Whitehouse clearly articulates this perspective in "Christological Understanding," in Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology of the Church in Ministry. Edited by Ray Anderson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, 218. [return]

40. This formulation of the communio sanctorum is adapted from Karl Barth, "The Holy Spirit and the Gathering of the Christian Community," in Church Dogmatics, Vol. 4, Part 1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Translated by G. W. Bromiley. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961 [1956], 643ff. [return]

41. It is helpful to recall here that in Matthew 28:19-20 mathateusate ("make disciples") is the main verb while poreuthentes ("while going" or "when [you] go"), baptizontes ("baptizing"), and didaskontes ("teaching") are subsidiary participles. This does not necessarily lessen the impact of the command, but perhaps allows a broader focus than is often given this passage. [return]

42. Barth made the distinction between intensive growth, the upbuilding of the Christian community in the things of God, and extensive growth, the numerical increase of the community that results from intensive growth. Karl Barth, "The Holy Spirit and the Gathering of the Christian Community," in Church Dogmatics, Vol. 4, Part 1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Translated by G. W. Bromiley. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961 [1956], 644-648. [return]

43. "Often a contrast is made between the ministry of renewal in the church, so that the internal life of the church is deepened, and the ministry of mission to the world, in which the church is turned out toward the needs of the world. The point we are making is that the ministry of the church includes both, and these two aspects are inseparable. To be concerned for inward renewal and forget that this new life is given for service of the world is to destroy the servant character of ministry. But to be concerned for servant mission in the world and to separate this from the life of the renewed community is to forget that this community life is meant to be both a sign of new life the world needs and the source of servant life for the world." Colin Williams, The Church. New Directions in Theology Today, vol. 4. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968, 102. [return]

44. The most familiar Old Testament usage of the "servant" concept is in Isaiah 41-53. The real impact of the Isaiah servant passages is too easily missed, and therefore dismissed, by relating them exclusively to a prediction of the coming of a Messiah. In the context of Isaiah 40-55, the servant is clearly identified as the nation of Israel (Isa 41:8-10; 44:1-2, etc.), specifically those exiles who were "serving" the community by bearing the punishment of exile for the sins of the entire nation. In this sense the "servant" of Isaiah becomes an appropriate means to describe the coming of Jesus the Christ. [return]

"The truth of election in the Old Testament comes most poignantly to expression in Isaiah 40-55, where it is ultimately related to Israel as Yahweh's servant. In 43:10, the prophet quotes God saying, 'You are my witnesses.' The way in which this witness is to be implemented is through vicarious suffering, by which many shall be brought to righteousness. Here election and mission are inseparably joined, and the nature of the mission is spelled out." H. Ray Dunning, Grace, Faith and Holiness: A Wesleyan Systematic Theology. Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 1988, 508. The New Testament passages are numerous, both in direct references and allusions: Matt 23:11-12; Mark 9:35; Gal 11:10; etc.

45. As noted earlier, Scripture expresses this in various ways in different traditions and in specific historical circumstances. See footnotes 29 and 32. [return]

46. "What is scandalous about the teaching and example of Jesus is the suggestion, embodied in His choice of model [of servanthood], that those who follow Him must spend themselves in direct personal service to any who call upon them, without any safeguards of dignity. The true dignity will emerge precisely in so doing. . . ." W. A. Whitehouse, "Christological Understanding," in Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology of the Church in Ministry. Edited by Ray Anderson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, 217. [return]

47. It is important to note here that John Wesley put great stress on this service dimension of Christian living, especially as related to his understanding of sanctification. See John Wesley, "A Plain Account of Genuine Christianity, " in John Wesley, edited by Albert Outler, New York: Oxford University Press, 1964, especially 185ff. [return]

48. W. A. Whitehouse, "Christological Understanding," in Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology of the Church in Ministry. Edited by Ray Anderson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, 219-220. The same point is made from a different perspective by Edward Schillebeeckx, The Mission of the Church. Translated by N. D. Smith. New York: Seabury Press, 1973, 74ff. [return]

49. "Evangelical faith sets the human vocation as obedience. God's calling is not only to refer life back to God in praise. God's calling is to obedience in the world for the sake of the neighbor." Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation and Obedience: From Faithful Reading to Faithful Living, Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991, 168. [return]

50. " Most charitable institutions, of which the church is one, have tended to view the problems of society as "out there," and it was assumed that service to the "out there" was the sole justification for their existence. Now the view is emerging that one begins "in here," inside the serving institution, and makes it a model institution. This model, because it is a thing of beauty, in itself, becomes a powerful serving force." Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. New York: Paulist Press, 1977, 239. Edward Schillebeeckx calls the Church a ". . .'sacrament of the world' - the church is the people of God, but she is that people as the sign in the world and for the benefit of the world." Edward Schillebeeckx, The Mission of the Church. Translated by N. D. Smith. New York: Seabury Press, 1973, 74. [return]

51. Karl Barth, "The Holy Spirit and the Gathering of the Christian Community," in Church Dogmatics, Vol. 4, Part 1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Translated by G. W. Bromiley. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961 [1956], 646-648; W. A. Whitehouse, "Christological Understanding," in Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology of the Church in Ministry. Edited by Ray Anderson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979, 216-221. [return]

52. Colin Williams, The Church. New Directions in Theology Today, vol. 4. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968, 141. We could also add the metaphor of salt from Matthew 5:13 and perhaps also of leaven and the mustard seed from Matthew 13:33. [return]

53. Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah, Jesus, and Paul are the clearest examples. While each of these had profound long range impact on their communities, they did not enjoy tremendous success during their ministries. [return]

54. "The variable that marks some periods as barren and some as rich in prophetic vision is the interest, the level of seeking, the responsiveness of the hearers. The variable is not in the presence or absence or the relative quality and force of the prophetic voices." Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. New York: Paulist Press, 1977, 219. [return]

55. I still recall with amusement, and a certain degree of sadness, the comment of a zealous, though immature, young preacher who had adopted his revival strategy from a well know evangelist, who said only half jokingly: "I can get them to the altar and have them saved before they know it." [return]

56. There is no question that there is a problem with pastors who are not doing their job well. But this can and should be dealt with as a "management" problem in individual cases, not on the basis of blanket criteria that may compromise the larger mission of the Church. [return]

57. If the term "evangelism" is to retain any meaning in our modern culture, we must broaden our understanding of the idea, moving away from the revivalist overtones of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and toward a more inclusive understanding in relation to the mission of the Church. "I hope that a new definition of evangelism will be accepted. This definition does not count new converts by the number of people kneeling at the altar, nor by the number of people who have prayed at a personal evangelism encounter. The definition includes leading a soul to Jesus Christ, disciplining that one into church membership, and the employment of his or her spiritual gifts. Evangelism is not complete until a disciple is made!" M. V. Scutt, "Harvest Now! The Herald visits with M. V. (Bud) Scutt of Evangelism Ministries about the aim of the Harvest Now Campaign," Herald of Holiness 80:1991, 12. [return]

58. ". . .if the church is purely an institution set up for the 'task of conversion', we are bound to conclude, after two thousand years of carrying out this task, that the result is, quantitatively at least, a very meagre catch of fish - the very opposite of John's vision of the wonderful catch made by Jesus' disciples. Even though it has not been in vain, the catch does not amount to much more than a few bream and carp." Edward Schillebeeckx, The Mission of the Church. Translated by N. D. Smith. New York: Seabury Press, 1973, 74. [return]

59. "[The Church] has to attest the Gospel. It has to seek a hearing and understanding for the Gospel's voice. It cannot do this without exerting itself to win new witnesses. But this cannot become an end in itself. It knows of only one end in itself - the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. . . .In the service of this end in itself it will necessarily also be an end to win new witnesses and by their addition to increase extensively. But it will not forget that it is a great and rare matter when a man comes to faith; when he becomes a witness of the Gospel, a saint, a Christian. . . .[The church] will have to resist the temptation to win them by diluting the wine with a little water." Karl Barth, "The Holy Spirit and the Gathering of the Christian Community," in Church Dogmatics, Vol. 4, Part 1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Translated by G. W. Bromiley. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961 [1956], 646-647. [return]

60. David Lowes Watson compares the ministry of the Church to a newspaper boy throwing the morning paper. The paperboy's responsibility is to be sure he gets the paper on the porch, in good shape, without breaking out any of the homeowner's windows. He may even take the paper to the homeowner in person. But the paperboy is not responsible for the homeowner reading the paper; that is the homeowner's responsibility. David Lowes Watson, Audio Tape: The Rothwell Lectures, Southern Nazarene University, February 24, 1988. [return]

61. It is apparent that these suggestions reflect the rather narrow perspective of the Church in the United States. While these suggestions might need modification in specific national or cultural settings, I think the basic principles are valid even in an international context. [return]

62. This is a major theme to which Walter Brueggemann often returns in his writings and lectures. His most recent expression of this conviction is found in Interpretation and Obedience: From Faithful Reading to Faithful Living, Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991, especially 37-39, although it occurs throughout the book. [return]

63. It seems to me that a better place to do the "practics" training would be in an ongoing program on the District level as the young pastor is involved in ministry and understands better what is required in technique and management skills. This same point was made by Bill Sullivan is his paper presented at the Consultation on Clergy Preparation in 1990, "Clergy Preparation and the Contexts for Ministry ," Typewritten, Unpublished. [return]

64. The warning against ministers attempting to be all things to all people was clearly, and correctly, sounded by Kenneth Calhoun, "Pastors, Stay in Your Own Yard," The Preacher's Magazine 67 (1991):44-45. However, the four areas which he thought appropriate for ministerial involvement (pre-marital, grief, behavioral related to family, and crisis counseling) include the potential for a staggering range of human need with which many, if not most, ministers are ill equipped to deal. [return]

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