Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Principles for preaching- don't collapse your role with your goal

Ministers have a tendency to conflate their role with the life of the church.

In my neck of the woods, this tends to focus around teaching. The chief (even sole) goal of the church is to teach. You teach so that others can be teachers who teach others to teach. The role of the teacher is inflated so that it consumes the whole church. Other activities are seen as sidelines, distractions even, from the proclamation of the gospel. I think this comes from a good love of the gospel, but also a place of deep insecurity about leaders roles as teachers, so they feel the need to defend it.

The reaction is for the minister to have a finger in every pie. He has to be the carer, the evangelist, the meeting chair, the teacher, the visionary, the one meeting the neighbours, the cleaner, the trainer, the advocate for social justice, the advocate for everything else, the social service etc.
I think this come from a good recognition that the life of the church is more than teaching and being taught, but involves an expression and living out of faith. The rather obvious downside is 1. burnout and 2. vapid teaching. (there just isn't enough time to bother writing a good sermon)

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

Teachers, teach! That is your job! But your goal is not to reproduce yourself, but prepare the people for works of service.
If you teach that all there is is teaching, you are teaching rubbish!
You are not the whole church, but just one part of it. Relax.


kristan said...

easy in a city when there are plenty of teachers... it'd be nice if just a few teachers had taught others to teach here on my island

Mike W said...

Hmm, I reckon even Sydney needs more teachers, though I'm sure your situation needs even more.

I'm all for targeted training too.
I just dont think teaching is the only thing a church does.

The first bit was just a setup for the second though. I've seen very few (anglican) ministers who can devote themselves to teaching while still having an active church in other areas.
It may be one of the downsides of the anglican system, where things seem to need the presence of clergy to be validated.

kristan said...

agreed about the role of church not being simply teaching.

i think you're right about the weakness of the system - as it functions, anyway - it needn't be that way.

a friend and i were just talking about this today - the anglicans here are crippled because the bishop is unwell, and prior to that has a massive role overseas and so little is done by others as they wait for his say-so and approval. Add the typical functioning of the system itself to a culture which traditionally looks to hierarchy and you have an immobile church.