Brian McClaren Seminar


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A Personal Journey of Dissonance: 

A Personal Journey of Dissonance Ideal vs. real Theology vs. 'knee-ology' 'Theological correctedness' – ministry pragmatism The ultimate question for the AGTS president. . .Have you ever been in the ministry before? 'Mr. Wesley, did you know God is not impressed with your Oxford education' 'Madam, neither is God impressed with your ignorance.'


Theology Academic – Abstract – discussed by people who can’t pastor Boring – unintelligible Official information that provides 'theological correctedness' Domain of people who can’t cut it in the 'real ministry world.' People with degrees but no communication capabilities.


Practical How to do it – methods – skills Where the rubber meets the road The 'real world' 'Stuff' that will make a person successful in ministry.


Can the church tolerate the separation of the theoretical task from the concrete situation of its own existence? Will theologians be permitted to do their work in cool absentia while pastors sweat out their own existence in the steamy space of the Church in the world? When theological thinking is practiced in abstraction from the Church in ministry, it inevitably becomes as much unapplied and irrelevant as pure. When the theological mind of the minister is educated primarily through experience, an adhoc theology emerges which owes as much (or more) to methodological and pragmatic concerns as to dogma. The task to work out a theology for ministry begins properly with the task of identifying the nature of and place of ministry itself. Ray Anderson (Theological Foundations for Ministry)

The Achilles Heel of Pentecostals: 

The Achilles Heel of Pentecostals Pragmatism Leviticus 10:1 – 'Strange fire' 'Aaron’s sons Nadab andamp; Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to His command.' A divine task attempted with reliance on human design alone.


Zechariah 4:6 – 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty. Might – human resources Power – human resoluteness Spirit – divine initiative and power for God’s eternal purposes The temptation to offer our resources to the service of God believing that they are an adequate substitute for God’s eternal resource.


Matthew 7:21-23 – 'Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of the Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them Plainly, I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!'


Success is rejected by the Lord as having no kingdom legitimacy. Human efforts don’t even get a pat on the back. We can actually think our usage of strange fire/might-power/sign ministry carries with it God’s seal of approval. Success is viewed as self-authenticating.

Balancing the Equation: 

Balancing the Equation Theology – Human reflection on God’s continuing redemptive activity. The Bible is the authoritative record to God’s redemptive character. He has revealed Himself in the middle of human history to make it clear who He is and what He’s up to. The Incarnation of Jesus testifies to the fact that God’s redemptive mission takes place in time andamp; space. God is serious about communicating with humanity. When God reveals Himself it is for redemptive purposes.


Jesus andamp; God’s Purpose/Mission Hebrews 1: 1-3 – The clear and full picture of God’s character – purpose. I Tim. 2:5, Col. 2:9 – Paul’s affirmation that Jesus represents God fairly because He is God. What is God like? Look at Jesus. The Gospels record in the life of Jesus the character of God and the purpose of His mission.


Pentecost – The mission of God seen most clearly in Jesus continues uninterrupted to this very day. Acts 1:6-8 – Mission is redemptive – global – empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus ministry happens in real time andamp; space. God’s purposes are therefore realized in the ministries we offer in His name and the organizations we create to facilitate those ministries. Structures and programs are theological statements.


Ministry is God’s way of reaffirming and expanding the truth of who God is . God’s continuing initiative to redeem is the present context we serve in. Jesus is present in that context in the very same way He was present 2000 years ago continuing the very same redemptive mission.

So What?: 

So What? How do we counteract bifurcation? How do we resist pragmatism? How do we challenge our culture’s immunity to the Gospel?

Biblical Clues: 

Biblical Clues God is at work! (John 5:17) God continues to empower His redemptive mission (Acts 1:6-8) Pentecost is the guarantee that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus who continues His ministry empowered by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:22-24) Our ministry is the continuing ministry of Christ working through us by the presence and power of the Spirit of Christ. II Cor.5:20

Discernment as an act of Church Leadership is the minimal expectation for our 21st century church leader (Acts 2:11-21): 

Discernment as an act of Church Leadership is the minimal expectation for our 21st century church leader (Acts 2:11-21) Discernment – spiritual maturity to know the difference between works of human effort and the continuing ministry of Jesus empowered by the Spirit. Discernment assumes the present tense of Jesus redemptive ministry. Discernment assumes that Christ’s Kingdom rule extends over all human structures and efforts. Discernment strives to 'see' the presence of Jesus in all ministry actions andamp; structures. (Not as an act of piety, but as a biblical necessity.)


Discerning true ministry requires: A connectedness to the life of Jesus (John 15) An affirmation that holiness and ethics are never mutually exclusive (II Cor. 5:20) A willingness to exegete ministry contexts with the same rigor we exegete biblical texts (Mt. 7:21-23) A commitment to evaluating ministry methodology by whether or not it facilitates Jesus continuing redemptive ministry.

Discernment of Ministry: 

Discernment of Ministry Key Considerations Ministry action as 'poiesis'. An action that produces a result. The end product of the action completes the act regardless of what the future of the product may be i.e. a ministry action can be viewed as effective simply because it added more people or people were supportive (fiscally) or people were 'blessed,' or it most effectively facilitated a program’s success.


Ministry action as praxis-telos (discernment of ultimate purpose.) A ministry action that includes the ultimate purpose of that action as part of the action. i.e. no ministry action, program or ministry structure is incidental. It either reveals the redemptive purpose of Jesus or it has no contribution to make to God eternal concerns. (Mt. 7:21-23)

Challenges Facing Ministry Effectiveness: 

Challenges Facing Ministry Effectiveness Pragmatism is the result of a willingness to be tempted like Nadab andamp; Abihu to substitute our 'stuff' for God’s design. Pragmatism in ministry is a function of a culture where consumerism is accepted as normal and choice is a divine right. Dissonance between a missional heritage and a plateauing present reality.

Pentecost As A Compass: 

Pentecost As A Compass Pentecost orients us biblically to the inner logic of God’s revelation of Himself in the world through Jesus Christ and experientially to the eschatological vision of redemption of the world. Pentecost is the pivotal point from which we can look back to the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth and look forward into our contemporary life and witness to Jesus Christ in our world. Pentecost is more than a historical and instrumental link between a theology of the incarnation and a theology of the church. Pentecost is more than the birth of the church, it is the indwelling power of the Spirit of Christ as the source of the church’s life and ministry.' (Ray Anderson, The Soul of Ministry, p.111)


The pragmatic demands of day to day ministry often tend to overwhelm our vision (the capacity to see what God has done in Jesus Christ II Cor. 5:17-20) and dull our discernment (the capacity to see the congruence between the Christ of Scripture and the Christ as work in current ministry John 5:17) A Pentecostal theology for ministry affirms the context and activity of ministry is not merely the place for the application of abstract principles or professional skills. Ministry is the habitat of Jesus’ continuing ministry that requires a spirituality nurturing both vision and discernment as necessary for ministry effectiveness.

The Baptism of the Spirit and Recovering a Muted Voice: 

The Baptism of the Spirit and Recovering a Muted Voice 'The Baptism of the Spirit in Pentecostalism is rightfully seen as empowerment for service impacting the believer deeply by giving him/her a tremendous boldness, a heightened sense of personal holiness and a new sense of self worth and personal power. Yet, the narrow individualistic focus and purpose implies the dissipation. . .of so much energy and spiritual power that can and should be 'tapped' for the broader missional objective of the church. The challenge which remains for Pentecostals is to catch the vision of the broader prophetic and vocation role of the Baptism of the Spirit.' (Eldin Villafane)

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