My Theology

Index to this page: Statement on the Ministry -- Statement on Interim Ministry

Statement on the Ministry

A. Theological Statement

The primary function of pastoral ministry is to assist people in their search for God. When Jesus took his last breath, the curtain the temple that separated the "Holiest of Holies" from the rest of the temple -- the place where only the High Priest could enter once a year on the day of Atonement -- was torn in half (Luke 23:45). To me this is a highly symbolic event. It signifies that with the death of Jesus, the grace of God is accessible to all, not just via a High Priest.

I view the essence of my ministry as twofold:

1. My primary ROLE as a minister is to communicate accessibility to the grace of God by effective pastoring: praying with and for, gently guiding, teaching and preaching from a sound theology, and finally healing through caring counseling.

2. My primary GOAL is to empower others in their quest to follow Jesus and sense what it means to be nurtured by the Holy Spirit.

Since the beginning of time, humans first communicated the message of God being active with, and accessible to people, through story telling. Human history as well as personal history comes alive not as much through factual data, as through STORY and how one identifies with the testimony of another. through one's narrative, poetry, visions, and dreams, transmitted faith comes alive for the hearer -- it is STORY that generates feelings as well as the calling of one to belief or disbelief.

Problems for the faith community arise, however, over the interpretation of the story. None of the Biblical authors provided us with resources and/or study guides. Even if one believes the unlikely notion that God may have dictated the scriptures to individuals, one is left with the same old stories, whose ultimate interpretation is placed in the care of the hearer. Some of the tension can be alleviated if hearers remember that the primary purpose of story is to call one to FAITH not to FACTS. It is important for us to focus more on WHAT the story is all about, rather than lose ourselves in trying to decipher HOW things actually happened.

We listen intently to faith stories today because GOD IS STILL SPEAKING! God is still calling God's own people to gather around the table into the sacred circle of faith where our story culminates in our mutual meal of remembrance. God remembers God's people and we respond by seeking to discern what God's will is for us. Somehow we are engaged in a cosmic partnership, if you will, with the eternal nature of love at its core. It is the story of Jesus who embodied this truth and has secured for us this sacred access (John 3:16).

As followers of Jesus we engage ourselves in Christ's Mission of communicating the accessibility of God's love in our communities of faith, and throughout our world. Christ's Mission is the work of ministry -- plain and simple. Be it local or global, all of our work is Mission. As we work to proclaim access to God's love to others, God's purpose becomes move vivid to us -- more real. It is also why our work is never complete. Our work as well as our partnership is unending. Mission includes, then, the small toddler who enters Sunday school for the first time. In fact ALL Christian education is Mission. Mission includes the elderly woman who needs the support of her church family as she enters the final stages of her life, perhaps as she enters a nursing home. In fact, ALL pastoral care is Mission.

Mission includes the people who are not seen -- in our slums, jails, hospitals, or who are struggling to survive across the seas. Mission commands our immediate response to disasters. In fact, ALL outreach is Mission.

Mission is about working for justice and advocating peace. Mission is about wrestling with those difficult decisions we make. Music is Mission as are fellowship groups. Keeping the church impeccably maintained with attractive grounds is Mission. And of course, Mission is about supporting our covenantal relationship with the wider Mission of our United Church of Christ. Through our Mission we create our own story. We proclaim the Good News by BEING -- good news!

Hospitality is the vehicle we use to promote our message of the love and accessibility of the grace of God. Prayer, charity, visitation, cards, letters, stewardship, and yes, even a variety of refreshments after Sunday worship are those signs that the Mission is alive and well. When hospitality is weak, the Mission becomes vague. Yet when hospitality is effective, the morale of the church is high and its vision of Mission clear.

It is important for a church to know that I, as pastor, do not see myself as "captain of the ship." Instead, I am the guy way up in the crow's nest with a telescope letting others know what I see. In a church we are all ministers. As your pastor, I am your theological reflector. I preach, teach, hopefully inspire, counsel, guide, pray for, pray with, visit, encourage, comfort, care, and go to meetings. Yet it is you, the church body, that finally makes all decisions -- you are ministers of the congregation and to the world.

Finally, proper communications is a must. We must commune with God and communicate with each other. Poor communication results in conflict ALL of the time. Hearsay, triangulation, and vague references like, "some people say," can make the hospitable, Mission-oriented church crumble like the Tower of Babel. Yet, I BELIEVE IN THE LOCAL CHURCH, ITS MINISTRY AND MISSION. Church folk are good folk. For the most part, we do the best we can with the resources we have.

When Jesus likens himself to a DOOR, we are to open it. When he describes himself as a WAY, we are to walk it. Ultimately, we write our own stories about how God's grace has been made accessible to us. We are called to share and to celebrate this love with others. Together we strive in the spirit of our denomination, The United Church of Christ, to be both UNITING and UNITED in the Mission of Christ's Church, working together to bring in the REIGN OF GOD.

Statement on Interim Ministry

My understanding of Interim Ministry is that it is primarily a healing ministry – with the growing edge of action, making ready for new pastoral leadership. As far as I can remember, Jesus never healed anybody without charging them to do something! (i.e. Matthew 9:6-7). It is important during the Interim Ministry for a faith community to look at itself very carefully. Who are we – honestly? Where have we been – really? What are we good at – actually? What would we like to be better at – humbly? Dare we allow for new leadership to emerge? Do we have a corporate vision – a United Church of Christ identity? Can our church sing with a renewed enthusiasm for the Gospel, We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations? Answering questions like these in different and creative ways is essential for both the healing and growth process.

Ministry goes on. It is never stagnant, nor does it claim for itself a rest period. Pastoral care, preaching, prayer, outreach, missions, Christian education, social action, choir, fund raising, building management, stewardship education, youth ministry, and pot luck suppers are our way of life, so to speak, and must continue. However - and here is the fun part - Interim Ministry is a great time to experiment, to try old things in new ways. It can be a time also to resurrect things that haven’t been done in a long time. It is a healing time including self-discovery and Christian identity evenly blended with hopes and dreams.

My job is to tell you that your hopes are real and affirm that the dream is true. (Romans 5:1-5)!

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