Tag Archives: Ecclesiology

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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The Task of Christian Education

Warning: big words ahead. Bear with me, though. I will land in a relevant, practical place.

J. Scott Horrell, professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, describes the five divisions of sin in Genesis chapter 3 based on his meditations at L’Abri and the writings of Francis Schaffer. In a nutshell, once Adam and Eve eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, it causes a division or separation of five relationships: humanity/God, humanity/humanity, humanity/self, humanity/nature, and nature/nature. Jesus’ work on the cross reconciles these relationships, and will ultimately reconcile these relationships in the eschaton (eternity future, when Jesus returns and sets all things right).

However, we don’t live in the eschaton; we live in the here and now. Here  and now, the Bible describes the church as the body of Christ. In a sense we (the church) serve as the incarnation (Christ in the flesh) until the incarnation comes back to complete the job.* If you can accept that the church must carry out the work of Christ, and if you can accept that Christ came (in part) to reconcile the divisions of sin (in fulfillment of the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15) then it follows that the church’s task is to carry out the reconciliation of the five divisions of sin.

This means that the task of Christian education is to teach the church how to carry out the task of reconciliation.

Implication: Christian educators need to reconsider the cognitive categories of education. We organize our educational system around content domains, based upon Greek philosophical categories. It seems to me that, while helpful, those categories may not offer the best method or categories.  I think that the Arts/Humanities/Sciences split doesn’t offer the best lens to think through the reconciliatory task. I will offer an alternative at a later date.

Implication: Christian educators also need to reconsider education in light of the academy/church/home split. I have suggested that the academy teaches to the cognitive (knowledge), the church teaches to the affective (values) and the home teaches to the conative (method/drive), but I think theses agencies can coordinate and cooperate more in their efforts to teach the students. In fact, I think these agencies need to do a better job in doing so. Perhaps this offers a path to doing so.

Implication: Christian educators must teach not only to the cognitive (content) aspects of education, but also the affective and conative aspects. I have said this before, but it bears repeating. Christian education involves the whole person, and our efforts need to do so with deliberation and with careful and prayerful consideration.

May we renew and pursue the task and the high calling of Christian education.

* – Yes, yes, I know this brings up post/pre/a-millenial arguments and interpretations of Revelation and the particular eschatological views. If you will grant me the basic premise that life now is different than life will be (in other words, that the future when all things are right will be different than life is now when all things are not right) without arguing over how we get there, I believe you might be able to accept where I’m going with this.

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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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Theology in Christian Education

I had someone ask today why should they have to study theology at a Seminary (graduate-level theological education) when they want to design curriculum for families and family life. My response: why not?

First things first: I generally define theology as “faith seeking understanding” of God’s revelation, wherever we find God revealing things. I also believe that God reveals through the inspired word (the Bible) but that He also reveals through the incarnate word (Jesus) and through the created order. God reveals, and we respond. When we respond to God’s revelation, we “do” theology.

Consider Ephesians 5 and the mystery of Christ and the Church as modeled in the husband/wife relationship. I will assume that anyone doing family life curriculum will, at some point, teach Ephesians 5 (and if they don’t, they’re skipping a significant and important text). To explain the husband/wife relationship contrasted with the Christ/Church requires a basic understanding of (1) Christ and (2) the Church. To explain that contrast well requires study in Christology and Ecclesiology (at a minimum). Biblically based family life curriculum teaches students to respond appropriately to God’s revelation, which means that Christian Education is a theological discipline and task. That one chooses to go to the Bible for such answers also represents a theological understanding and method.

Why theology in Christian education? Try doing Christian education without theology and see how far you get.

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