31 October 2012

Pastor as Prophet

transformedAn article by Chad Hall on the Transformed Blog:

What does the prophetic office look like in today’s church context?  I believe pastors are called to provide prophetic leadership via four specific practices:

  1. Preaching.  There is no substitute for sound, doctrinally solid, Spirit-invoked preaching that has as its aim the connection of God’s intent with God’s people.  In other words, prophets make God’s intent known so that God followers can live rightly.  Much preaching these days is more therapeutic than prophetic.  While prophetic preaching does heal (it’s God’s intent that we find wholeness and healing in Him), it is not merely therapeutic in the most popular sense (aimed at helping people feel good about themselves and/or have felt needs met).
  2. Decision-making: Prophetic leadership happens from the pulpit, but it also happens in board meetings, in one-on-one ministry settings, and in the budgeting processes.  Churches need prophetic pastors who challenge their institutional processes, question the status quo, and push for godly change within the church.  Prophetic pastors resist mere pragmatism and opt for decision-making processes that implement God’s intent.
  3. Vision casting: A key pastoral role is to inspire a shared vision of who a congregation is to be in the midst of their community and world and what the church is to do in order to live out this vision.  The vision comes from God and is oftentimes first witnessed by mature church members (they catch glimpses of what God is calling the church to be and do).  It is the pastor’s responsibility to listen deeply, discern prayerfully, and then speak compassionately so that the entire church community can see clearly the vision God has for their body and then carry out that vision.
  4. Community engagement:  The prophetic pastoral role extends beyond leading the local body of believers to being a God-ordained witness to the world.  As the OT prophets challenged Israel and their neighbors, a prophetic pastor will bring a message of God’s intent to the church, to those who are marginal to the church, and to the community in which the church lives.  This does not mean the pastor calls the unchurched to behave as if they were all Christ-followers.  Instead, this is a specific type of evangelism: sharing the good news of God’s intent with those who are currently far from God in expectation that they will repent and align themselves with God through Christ.

Food for thought.

07 August 2012

If we have an alternative story, who does what?

‘As we anxiously gaze into the future and delve back into our history and traditions to retrieve missiological tools from the Christendom toolbox, many of us are left with the sinking feeling that this is simply not going to work’ (17). What is needed is a new paradigm: ‘a fundamental change in our thoughts, perceptions, and values, especially as they relate to our view of church and mission’. –Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways.

Hirsch believes that we need to put the emphasis on developing the quality of new life in Christ as an alternative to the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of Western culture, rather than on a quantitative program of church multiplication? Why do we not explore what it means to be an effective prophetic community?


Here is the toolkit for story, i.e., this how we put the plot to work, as it were.


Eph. 4 11It was he who “gave gifts”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. 12He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ.


extend the gospel. They ensure that the faith is transmitted from one context to another and from one generation to the next. They are think about the future, establishing the church in new contexts and developing leaders, The shepherding and teaching functions are needed to ensure people are cared for rather than simply used.


know God's will. They are particularly attuned to God and his truth for today. They bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture. They call the community to obey what God has commanded and question the status quo. 


recruit. They communicate the gospel message to recruit others to the cause. They call for a personal response to God's redemption in Christ, and draw believers to engage in the wider mission of growing the church. 


nurture and protect. As caregivers of the community, they focus on the spiritual maturity of God's flock, cultivating a loving and spiritually network of relationships to make and develop disciples. Shepherds value stability of the of the mission.


understand and explain. They communicate God's truth and wisdom and help others to remain biblically grounded to better discern God's will, guiding others toward wisdom, helping the community remain faithful to Christ's word. and constructing a transferable doctrine.

Fill in the blank…

fill-in-blanksPaul is telling us that these gifts are given to the church. The context is not on individuals who have these gifts, but the purpose of the gifts in the church. How does the church respond and adapt to resistance from the culture, marginalization, persecution, or even lack of relevance.

Paul is saying that these various gifts are given to the church so that it can know where it needs to go and what it needs to do; to keep on track, as well as to nurture and protect the flock.

The question is, how does the church recognize these gifts, who has them, how are they used in the ministry of the body of Christ?

Finally, how would you define each of these gifts? Do you agree or disagree with the individual synopses?

06 August 2012

More musings on an alternative story.

What might an alternative story look like?

juggler“The circus is among the few coherent images of the eschatological realm to which people still have ready access and ... the circus thereby affords some elementary insights into the idea of society as a consummate event. This principality, this art, this veritable liturgy, this common enterprise of multifarious creatures called the circus enacts a hope, in an immediate and historic sense, and simultaneously embodies an ecumenical foresight of radical and wondrous splendor, encompassing, as it does both empirically and symbolically, the scope and diversity of creation. I suppose some ... may deem the association of the circus and the Kingdom scandalous or facetious or bizarre, and scoff quickly at the thought that the circus is relevant to the ethics of society.... To [these people] I only respond that the connection seems to me to be at once suggested when one recalls that biblical people, like circus folk, live typically as sojourners, interrupting time, with few possessions, and in tents, in this world. The church would likely be more faithful if the church were similarly nomadic.”
William Stringfellow, A Keeper of the Word: Selected Writings of William Stringfellow

I like the image.

More on an alternate story - 2

What is a Christian, and what do we think she/he might look like ?

Cyberman-the-enemy“To become and to be a Christian is not at all an escape from the world as it is, nor is it a wistful longing for a “better” world, nor a commitment to generous charity, nor fondness for “moral and spiritual values” (whatever that may mean), nor self- serving positive thoughts, nor persuasion to splendid abstractions about God. It is, instead, the knowledge that there is no pain or privation, no humiliation or disaster, no scourge or distress or destitution or hunger, no striving or temptation, no wile or sickness or suffering or poverty which God has not known and borne for [humanity] in Jesus Christ. He has borne death itself on behalf of [humanity], and in that event he has broken the power of death once and for all.
To become to be a Christian is, therefore, to have the extraordinary freedom to share the burdens of the daily, common, ambiguous, transient, perishing existence of [humans beings], even to the point of actually taking the place of another [person], whether he be powerful or weak, in health or in sickness, clothed or naked, educated or illiterate, secure or persecuted, complacent or despondent, proud or forgotten, housed or homeless, fed or hungry, at liberty or in prison, young or old, white or Negro, rich or poor.
For a Christian to be poor and to work among the poor is not a conventional charity, but a use of the freedom for which Christ has set [humanity] free.”
~~ William Stringfellow, My People is the Enemy

Beautiful answer. 

More on an alternate story

“The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. 

Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives.
Isaiah 58:6-7 GNT

What do disciples do ?

What would it look like in our church if we did this stuff ?

05 August 2012

What is an Alternative Story?

fishers“Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into our future so that we can take the next step…If you want to change a society, then you have to tell an alternative story.”

--Ivan Illich


An alternative story

What does an alternative story for the church look like? I think it encompasses three concepts:

1. Jesus said “Seek first the kingdom of God” (-- Why do you call me Lord?)


seekOur entry and journey to the father through the son by the power of the spirit is summed up in this phrase: "Seek first the kingdom of God." God desires us to join in fellowship with him, to experience the trinity in fellowship with him as well as with each other.

What does it mean to seek?
What is the kingdom of God?

How do we find it in the noise and bluster of life? How did we make something so great and grand so oblivious to others?

And how do we allow the seed and the leaven to grow and overtake the world?

We can't make it grow, we can't force it to grow, we have to do what we are called to do and let it do what it is designed to do on its own.

The caveat is the question Jesus asked in Luke 6:46:

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"

The first part is important. What does it mean to call Jesus "Lord"? What does that look like in our day to day lives?

What does Jesus mean when he asks:

"...and not do what I say?"

What are the implications for us. For Grenoble, for the Romani, and so on? How do we speak, live and incarnate the message to others?


2. Jesus said “go into all the world and make disciples of everyone” We tend to think that this means "go and share the four spiritual laws" with everyone.


go-all the worldAccording to the parallel passages Matthew, Mark, John and Luke, this is the beginning of our task. Following McKnight and Wright, we see that growing disciples is the "rest of the story," the part we miss. It is more than getting our ticket validated and waiting for our train or flight. This refers us to the next point: "follow me."


3. Jesus said “follow me”


Follow-me-LeftWhat did this call mean for Simon, John, Matthew, et. al. to follow Jesus? It seems to mean more than "follow Jesus" in your spare time, or, as a supplement to your everyday life so that you can fill in the blanks where stuff is missing.

Rather, it is a radical call, and he calls for a radical change in the direction and the way they lives their lives. It is a call to vocation (a vocation is about the gifts and talents that God gives us to orient us toward specific purposes and a way of life; not what we do for a living). What was involved in "follow me"? They had on the job training --on the fly. They watched him, he gave them tasks, learning experiences, etc. If that is the case, then what does that mean for us? As my friend Max shared, it's about inviting people to participate in the kingdom (following Christ is not a spectator sport). We need to put them to work in the kingdom, help them (and us) to figure out their gifts, throw them in the lake if necessary, and see what happens.

06 April 2012


Okay, so I've been away, distracted, or otherwise enjoying an inexcusable absence. In a memorial to Good Friday, I've decided to post some of the art I've encountered for the Art and the Bible class I've been leading at the FEU.

 Pietà as a theme in Christian art, depiction of the Virgin Mary supporting the body of the dead Christ. The Pietà was widely represented in both painting and sculpture, being one of the most poignant visual expressions of popular concern with the emotional aspects of the lives of Christ and the Virgin.

Pietà by Michaelangelo, 1499
The theme, which has no literary source but grew out of the theme of the lamentation over Christ’s body, first appeared in the early 14th century in Germany. It soon spread to France and enjoyed great popularity in northern Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries. Although the Pietà remained mostly a Franco-German theme, its supreme representation is that completed by Michelangelo in 1499 and housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Influenced by the northern style, Michelangelo draped the figure of Christ across Mary’s lap. Through this pyramidal design and the details of his figures, Michelangelo created a scene that displayed at once agony, solemnity, and heroic resignation.

The format of the Virgin bearing the body of Christ on her knees was standard until the 16th century, when, influenced by the Renaissance concern with logic and proportions, artists usually depicted Christ lying at the Virgin’s feet, with only his head propped against her knees. This form was adopted by Italian Baroque art and was passed on to Spain, Flanders, and Holland.

Most religious art suffered a decline after the 17th century, but, because of its special emotional appeal, the Pietà continued to be a vital theme through the 19th century.

Giovanni BELLINI, Pietà 1470-1479

 Enguerrand CHARONTON, Pietà de Villeneuve-lès-Avignon (detail), 1457

Edouard Manet, The Dead Christ With Angels 1864

Giovanni Bellini, Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels Pietà c. 1460

Massimo Stanzione, Pietà 1621-25

Vincent Van Gogh Pietà, after Eugene Delacroix (c. 1890)

William Adolphe Bouguereau, Pietà (1876)
El Greco Pietà 1587-97

Paula Rego Pietà 2002

Marc Chagall Red Pietà 1956