Tag Archives: church

Reinventing Church Roles

In a prior blog, I dared to dream of a church dedicated to Christian education, and based on the roles as expressed in Ephesians 4:7-16. In keeping with that, I saw five pastoral roles. Today, lets look at those roles and how the conative styles as I have described them fit, especially in light of Ephesians 4:11.

  1. Preaching and Worship Pastor. Responsible for the proclamation of the word and the organization and administration of the worship service. Best suited for people with the drive to persuade, as their primary job is to communicate the Word to the body, and to develop devotionals and messages to encourage and uplift the congregation throughout the week. I would associate this role with the προφήτας (translated as prophet).
  2. Administrative and Counseling Pastor. Responsible to ensure that the church as a whole are moving in the same direction, and for organizing the people and processes of the church around and toward the vision as cast by the elders. Best suited for people with the drive to organize, as their primary job is to lead and manage the organization. I would associate this role with the ποιμένας (translated as pastor, but with a meaning of shepherd).
  3. Teaching and Discipleship Pastor. Responsible for the teaching and developmental ministries of the church, as well as ensuring that the church does indeed produce disciples. Best suited for people with the drive to explain, as their primary job is to oversee the educational aspects of the congregation. I would associate this role with the διδασκάλους (translated as teachers).
  4. Evangelism and Outreach Pastor. Responsible for guiding and carrying out the individual and group evangelistic activities, as well as outreach and benevolence in general. Best suited for people with the drive to act as their job is to do the work of the evangelist. I would associate this role with the εὐαγγελιστάς (translated as evangelist).
  5. Research and Scholarship Pastor. Responsible for assisting with sermon preparation, evaluation of ministry effectiveness, and researching best practices for carrying out ministry. Also designated to go out and represent the church at special events. Best suited for people with the drive to understand as their job is essentially to act as research assistant and quality assurance. I would associate this role with the ἀποστόλους (translated apostle).

While each pastor as a point of responsibility and strength, do not understand these strengths to be exclusive. All pastors would preach, would teach, would counsel, would prepare sermons, would evangelist. One point I hope you see is that we expect senior pastors to accomplish all of these at once when it’s impossible (or highly unlikely) to find one person (a) good at all of these and (b) with a primary drive to do all of these. Also, I don’t suggest that any one of these needs to be THE guy in charge, and certainly not necessarily the preaching pastor (at best, you could say the Administrative pastor). Consider, for a moment, if these five pastors were the elders of a church, or were five of the twelve (just to pick a number) elders of a church.

We often claim the Biblical title for our churches. Let’s try to actually achieve it.

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Applying conative styles in the church

Dream with me, just for a moment.

Imagine a church, dedicated to the task of Christian education. Our church follows the model demonstrated in the New Testament by adhering to a plurality of leadership. Its elders all fulfill the qualifications of “able to teach,” and each play a different role in the governing and function of the church. In fact, there are five elders of our church, and they all speak on occasion (but one of them does the primary speaking/proclamation during gatherings).

Now consider the following passage, from Ephesians 4:7-16

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he captured captives; he gave gifts to men.”  Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended  to the lower regions, namely, the earth? He, the very one  who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things. It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature. So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. But practicing the truth in love,we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love.

What if we built a church structure around the bolded parts, with some caveats. Firstly, questions exist as to whether the role of the apostle exists in the modern day church. However, let’s consider that the apostle (1) likely best understood the message of Christ considering he had received it directly from Jesus and (2) continued to diligently search the scriptures to ensure they accurately taught the message of Christ. Secondly, the original language construction might take the pastor and teacher as a single role, or one could take it as separate. I tend to think they are separate roles. Thirdly, the word translated as “pastor” also could translate as “shepherd”. With that, I then see five pastoral titles from this verse

  1. Preaching and Worship Pastor
  2. Administrative and Counseling Pastor
  3. Teaching and Discipleship Pastor
  4. Evangelism and Outreach Pastor
  5. Research and Scholarship Pastor

In the next post, I’ll define these roles, and show how the conative styles as I’ve defined them fit with each of these roles. Until then, consider the diversity of gifts and conative styles, and how they’re designed to help us all grow in Christ, and that He has equipped us for the work of the ministry.

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Threefold Office in Christian Education

In doing some research for a project I’m planning to work on with a friend, I had the chance to contemplate and learn about the threefold office. The concept of the threefold office refers to Jesus’ earthly ministry and roles as prophet, priest, and king. Loosely described, the prophet represents God to the people, receiving proclamations from God and delivering them to the populace. The priest represents the people to God, making sacrifice and intercession on their behalf. The king acts as God’s agent on the earth, ruling and reigning over the people. In doing so, the king also provides an example of how to live, often bearing responsibility for the blessing or curse of the people.

So how does this impact Christian education?

CE happens in one of three places: the church, the home, and the academy (school, as in primary, secondary or higher education). While each commits themselves to CE, they  have differing emphases. It also occurs to me that those roles correspond with the threefold offices, and have a primary educational domain in which they focus. For your consideration (and recognizing the idealism in these descriptions):

  1. The church. The church’s CE role corresponds to the priestly function. At the church, we learn what to value (the affective domain) and where we should place our priorities. The Old Covenant priestly function includes some aspects of teaching, as the priest must instruct the people on the proper ways to approach God, and how to understand and value the sacrificial system. This “priestly” function carries over into the church (I know about the priesthood of all believers and as a dyed-in-the-wool protestant I affirm that belief) where we practice the ritual aspects of faith and experience communion.
  2. The home. The home’s CE role corresponds to the kingly function. In the home, we experience the rule and reign (the parents) who model the proper behavior as set forth by God, and wield the authority granted by God with grace and wisdom. In doing so, parents help children understand their role in the body, in society, and train up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6). In short, the student in the  home learns conation, and the home teaches mainly to the conative domain.
  3. The academy. The academy’s CE role corresponds to the prophetic function. Like the prophet, the academy seeks to receive and understand the revelation of God, and then communicate that to the people of God. As such, the academy studies not only the inspired word of God (the canon) but also that which God spoke into existence (creation). In doing so, the academy teaches the content of God’s revelation (the cognitive domain).

The domain and teaching content are not exclusive, but primary. The parents in the home have primary responsibility to help a child find their way, but will also work to shape the values and knowledge of that child. When that family goes to church, the pastor will primarily shape the values of that family, but will also teach the knowledge and practices of the faith. When the child goes to school, he will learn knowledge of God, but that knowledge will shape his values and methods.

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The Church in Christian Education

At several points in this blog, I have or will mention the church. It occurs to me that I need to make my meaning clear when I refer to it for the sake of clarity.

Definition #1: I took a course in Sanctification and Ecclesiology, and another in Issues in Ecclesiology from Dr. Glenn Kreider of Dallas Theological Seminary. In that course, he defines what most describe as the Universal Church, in a definition from Robert Saucy’s The Church in God’s Program. So, when I refer to the church in a general way, I mean, the New Covenant Community of the Spirit. Christians are members and partakers of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Luke 22:20, Hebrews). We are a community of faith, united in and by the Spirit of God (Acts 2:14-21).

Definition #2: Sometimes I talk about it in connection or contrast to the home and the academy as a location for Christian education. In that case, I’m referring to the institutional, organized assembly where the new covenant community of the Spirit gathers to receive the ordinances and participate in the communal ritual expressions of faith. That definition is long and clunky, and I’m working on shortening it, but it’s what I have so far.

Definition #3: Rarely I refer to the building where the new covenant community of the Spirit assembles to participate in the communal ritual expressions of faith. This doesn’t happen often, however.

Definition #4: Rarer still, I might talk about the church in connection and contrast to the historical Israel of the Bible (Old Testament). In that case, I most likely mean the seed (descendants) of Abraham in relationship to God through the New Covenant. By this I mean the spiritual heirs of Abraham (Galatians 3:29) and inheritors of the promise. This means that not all descendents of Abraham will inherit his promise, but this should not surprise anyone (see Ishmael, for one example).

My other half would point out to me that I need to answer the “so what” question, as in, “So why should I care about this definition?” Firstly, I answer this question so that you, the reader, can understand what I mean, but that’s about me. I would encourage others to think through what they mean by “the church” when they refer to it, recognizing that, like me, they probably mean a couple of different things. Secondly, our understanding of the church influences our behavior when we carry out the mission of the church. My first definition implies something about what I believe the Bible to communicate about God, my relationship to God, how I should relate to others, and how I should relate to his creation. It all ties to the New Covenant and shapes how I will educate my children and lead my family. Thirdly, note that I have not defined the church as the body of Christ. I do this because, as I understand it, the New Testament uses the body of Christ as a metaphor to describe the church, rather than define it, a subtle but important distinction.

And there you go. The church, by definition.

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Leadership in Christian Higher Education

I have observed an odd phenomenon.

If I wanted to hire someone to run my business, I’d look for a person who studied Business Administration (e.g. an MBA). If I wanted someone to run my hospital, I’d look for someone with a Masters of Healthcare Administration (MHA). If I wanted someone to run my non-profit organization or an agency of my government, I’d look for someone with a Master of Public Administration (MPA). So when I want someone to run my seminary, I’d look for someone with a Higher Education Administration degree, right?

Wrong.

In Christian Higher Education, we look for people with training in Communications, Theology, New Testament, and Bible. Rarely, you may find someone who studied Leadership. Now, I can hear the objections.

1. “But it’s a seminary! Don’t you want someone who understands the Bible to make sure we stay true to the Word?” Yes, but a Seminary is an educational organization. If I want someone to run my educational organization, I want someone who understands (a) how to lead and run an organization and (b) how to educate someone. That means, in part, an understanding of Bible and theology, but it primarily means someone who has studied and understands Education and Leadership.

2. “But isn’t the Bible sufficient?” There are leadership and educational principles found in the Bible, true. However, the Bible speaks to many things, but not all things, and we do well to study the things related to carrying out ministerial tasks that are not in the Bible. For instance, if I’m going to run an non-profit educational organization, it would do the organization well if the one running it has studied finance, fundraising, and accounting. I don’t recall Jesus’ sermon on the principles of accounting, employment law, payroll and non-profit organizations.

3.”But if you studied enough Bible and theology, won’t it help you do those things?” Studying Bible and theology helps, especially when it comes to the ethics of running an organization. Managing the intricacies of Student Development and Academic Affairs, however, requires a specialization. Yes, I want my teachers to be experts in exegesis and to be top notch theologians. However, the people running the school should have expertise in, well, running schools.

We wonder why theological education is on the decline and why people question its value, and yet we continue to employ educational methods started by D.L. Moody. As a result, churches wonder why they should invest in a pastor who utilizes antiquated methods which cannot reach the people. Then our parents, educated in the church, cannot pass on the faith to their children because they don’t know how to disciple them. We need students and scholars committed to understanding the strengths and uniqueness of Christian education, who are willing to study and expand the understanding of the field so that practitioners can then take that knowledge and apply it in the academy, church and home.

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