Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Church and Ministry

Because Jesus was strong for me, I am free to be weak; because Jesus won for me, I am free to lose; because Jesus is someone, I am free to be no one; because Jesus is extraordinary, I am free to be ordinary; because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail; because Jesus is the way, the life and the truth, I don’t have to come up with my own walk of life or purpose for that matter. This truth I read somewhere defines my life and informs my ministry. 


Understanding of the purpose of creation and so by extension of the church and the individual enables us to see and evaluate everything differently as it allows us a sneak peak of the things to come, the return of Christ and the final consummation into Christ. Humanity is made in the image of God. Understanding what it means to be in God's image is paramount to the purpose and meaning of humanity individually and collectively and therefore for the church, “God is love; therefore love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. And love your neighbour as yourself,” given that, we love because he first loved us.” That’s it, the sum of the Gospel and consequently of the meaning of image. Also, from the beginning we see God giving Adam and Eve roles as male and female which served as the impetus to gender cultures. Gender with its distinctions and differences in need is the first prime culture of humanity and I see it as part of God's image in us.

Mission/Purpose of the Church

What is Christianity? It is at its heart Christ. Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophy. Neither is it a type of morality, social ethic or worldview that differs from others. Christianity is not even about following Jesus as if he was a worthy human whose footstep to imitate. Christianity at its heart is the life that Jesus lived in the past, lived out in those who believe in the presents. Hence it is in Him that true humanity is found. Therefore the purpose of the church, to be a living link between God and His creation today, is unique to us who are the church.
We are this link by being a healthy church within the reach of all people of all cultures

  •  in the course of intentionally living a life of unconditional love and reconciliation,
  • as the result of interpreting life biblically through deliberate and ongoing reflection,
  • through maturing congregants from first to last,
  • by way of accepting individual responsibility for the overall health of the church,
  • commissioning prepared people for purposeful service,
  • investing human and financial resources with this in mind and
  • finding continuously new ways to connect unreached people with the gospel and us.


  • The Church as the family of God is the foundation for the growth of the Kingdom of God on earth.
  • The Church as the family of God is the primary context for developing believers.
  • The Church as the family of God is to minister on behalf of Christ to all people.
  • The Church as the family of God is to worship and serve God.
  • The Church as the family of God in loving relationship to one another is a witness of the loving relationship within the Trinitarian God to the world.

The Spirit of God unites our lives with other believers so that we continue to grow in our faith. This is not an accident or a decision from the hearts of believers; it is according to the divine purpose of God. God has a purpose for every person in the family. This purpose, however, is never in isolation but has always a corporate dimension. The purpose of discipleship/mentorship to help the individual to make a transition from knowing and doing the will of God as an individual to knowing and doing the will of God within a cooperate body of believers.


  • All persons are made uniquely in the image of God and possess intrinsic worth.
  • All persons have a need to know Christ Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
  • All persons can be saved and begin a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • All persons have unique gifts to contribute to the Kingdom of God and therefore to the church.

Just as God exist in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit with difference in function yet in complete harmony and unity, so we are being called to be in perfect unity.  God supplies the needs of the Church through the Church. The Church is a body of diverse members where each member functions to serve all other members. The members of the Church body are not only individuals but parts. That is to say that together we were created and re-created with His purpose in mind to be a person-in-community with Him, where I cannot be who I am without the other person. Until we rediscover His purpose for us of being in unity and in love with Him and one another and rediscover it the very next day and the days thereafter, we will continually seek purpose in activities and self-fulfilment rather than resting in the knowledge that we belong. Conversion is therefore less a change of activities as it is a change in direction and even more it is a change in belonging.  This unique purpose of belonging does not deny that we individually have our own purpose, vision, opinion and preference unique to us as person – not everyone is a musician, a teacher, or an elder . . . a foot, a nose or an eye and still only together do we have a purpose that is greater than its parts. It is in this greater purpose that we may lose our individual self-interests, die to ourselves only to find a belonging and identity that I can’t have on my own.

The task of all ministry is therefore to increase Jesus, both in this world and in the church. It is to bring others into an increasing comprehension and connection to the significance of Jesus. The starting point, therefore, of every church ministry must be the question; in what way does this particular ministry endeavour bring about the purpose of the church within a constantly changing context? To fulfill the mission of God to reconcile all things to himself in Christ, Jesus sends the church into the world to spread the gospel, to evangelize, to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, to embody in its mutual life the message of reconciliation and to live by the values of His Kingdom. The church, therefore, has a unique source of life, is directed toward unique ends and goals, and is governed by unique commitments, priorities and practices—such as prayer, worship, teaching, witness, service and belonging—that ought to give shape to the church’s life and ministry.

I think that this clear purpose enables us to see/evaluate everything differently and lesser things don’t distract us as easily. A clear purpose also allows us to say no to good things and even good ministries if they are in fact distracting us from reaching out with the gospel of reconciliation today, tomorrow and the day thereafter. I think that to be true on an individual but also on the community level of making decisions. 

Pastoral ministry

            Pastoral care; 

Pastoral care affirms the value of all people wherever they are in life. Often we have the tendency to stay with the crowd, but Jesus went after the marginalized, the outcast and the lost, people we will find even within the context of the fellowship of believers. Pastoral care therefore is an intentional attempt to overcome our tendency of likeminded exclusivism or any other judgmental isms. Pastoral care can be the connecting or re-connecting link to the body of Christ and therefore does not take sides but the side of Jesus. Pastoral care acknowledges that life is messy at times and people need to feel that the church is willing to walk with them, with the aim of healing and spiritual growth. True care can only be provided through a relationship of mutual vulnerability and trust grounded in love, something that will require time and intentionality. 


Prayer is not a mysterious practice reserved only for clergy and the religiously devout. Prayer cannot be a one-side conversation with the invisible. Prayer is communicating with God—listening and talking to him, prayer is something that permeates our lives and very little is done without. We can pray from the heart, freely, spontaneously, and in our own words. Yet, prayer is somewhat still difficult and mysterious as we are speaking to someone we cannot see. And so it is easy to skip but if we never speak to our spouse or never listen to anything our spouse might have to say to us, our marriage relationship will quickly deteriorate. It is the same way with God. Prayer—communicating with God—helps us grow closer and more intimately connected with God. A leader perhaps more than others ought to have a close relationship with God to which he invites others to join and encourages them to develop their own relationship with Him who waits. Hence there is a place of private prayer but also a place for cooperate prayer. Cooperate prayer also helps us grow closer together and therefore is an important part of cooperate worship.

            Proclaiming (teaching); 

Proclaiming is something more than speaking of the Good News of Christ but a truth expressed through life. The truth of the Gospel not only calls for a radical reorientation of priorities and a dramatic reinvestment of time but a learning to live more and more in greater awareness of the presence of God. Understood this way, proclaiming Christ as Lord does not take place in the confinement of a building or a specific time slot but is part of every moment of life. The role of the pastoral staff is therefore not so much the intellectual presentation of the truth but also the practical application of the same truth in the different situations of life into the life of the congregants and the community. 


With life come changes, challenges, loss, regrets but also conflicts and doubts. In difficult and demanding times such as a critical illness or other traumas, divorce or unemployment, people often experience high stress and an inability to cope. Family members and friends are often a very important support, but sometimes the presence of a person who is more emotionally detached from the situation can be helpful as well. The focus of pastoral care is upon the healing, guiding, supporting, reconciling, nurturing, liberating, and empowering of people in whatever situation they find themselves. Yet thankfully life is also full of positive challenges, yet challenges nonetheless. There are questions of courtship, marriage, career choices and so much more that come our way.  Much can be dealt with within the context of functional family structure which often however no longer exist, it is in this vacuum the church as caring family is called to love, care and mentor. But even beyond that; mentoring is more than teaching on a particular issue, it is sharing in the very life of God together.

             Pastoral leadership; 

Pastoral leadership is the process of allowing the people to take part in the message of belonging to God and one another through the cross. Every group of people has a particular work environment, brought about by its heritage of past leaders and its present leaders, which dictates to a considerable degree how its leaders respond to problems and opportunities. The development of trust and friendship, therefore, within the team of leaders is an important aspect of pastoral leadership as there might be times where Paul’s warnings to the Ephesians rings all too true our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  

If this happens deep reconciliation is one of the greatest testimonies to the power of the gospel that the church can give to the world. True Christian leadership involves the intentional pursuit of such reconciliation, yearning for the vision of Revelation to become a reality—when people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” will be gathered around the throne (Rev. 5:9).  One of the deepest impulses and values of Christian leadership, therefore, needs to be the pursuit of such reconciliation at every level by allowing the Cross to be our cross.  That is to say that church leadership is not a place to assert a particular personal preference, idea, taste, like or dislike … church leadership is not about control, but is about the content of love, far beyond ethnicity, personality type, gender or tradition. Leadership is a reflection of; “Not what I will, but what You will.”


The pastoral role must be seen in terms of reproducing the character of Jesus through the help and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” 1 Cor11:1 is the method of training.  One of the challenges facing the body of Christ is that although we are prepared for worship, to study, to plan and to work for Christ, we lack the conviction that it is possible to follow Him, or any of the deeply flawed disciples, including Paul in today’s world. Jesus is divine, the disciples were handpicked, but we are humans. Jesus is perfect, the disciples had seen and touched Him, but we are flawed. The New Testament in particular labours under the expectation that those who come to would find themselves changed into the likeness of Christ, but not only the individual but also the cooperate body, aka the church. The central problem for an intentional effort within the church is our unspoken view of “Jesus as the Impossible Mentor.” Scripture nonetheless encourages those who follow Christ to live in a tangible visible manner different from the rest of the world, the “old creation.” The issue in discipleship is less about failed perfection (cf. Matt 5:48) as the application of the faith in a manner that brings visible results, the kind of results that would give hope the watching world. Our enlightenment mindset, however, reinforces the notion of intellectual learning as the highest good. Discipleship is much less about learning about Him as it is to be conformed to His purpose. Discipleship begins when we acknowledge that Jesus chose deeply flawed individuals as His followers, and prepared these together to be discipleship makers in His absence. The reality that these men were something less than the perfect Son of God did not disqualify them from making disciples. In our frame of reference, however, when we see character flaws in others, and we will, we tend to reject them as worthy mentors. When we realize our own weaknesses we consider ourselves disqualified from making disciples. This has bled over into a reluctance to follow others, reinforced by our tendency of individualism, precisely because no one is perfect.  

And though it is invaluable for our primary purpose to be off like-minded people, we have to ask; what if our like-mindedness is incomplete or corrupted (As it properly always will be to some degree)? As well as sharing the gifts of the spirit, we unconsciously share and reinforce whatever works of the flesh are favour in the group. Who then calls us out of an error that is so thoroughly reinforced? Our vision will be undiluted – including the parts that are undiluted craziness. A picture may explain what I am trying to say: First, our past is like bad garlic breath: you smell it on everyone else before you smell it on yourself. That is, just like people don’t smell their own garlic breath, they often don’t see their own values deriving from their past at work. And just as brushing teeth is not a once-and-for-all, our tendency to be formed by our past needs to be addressed and readdressed. Our past is that invisible vault where worldviews, presuppositions, and values are generated and stored for the presence. The point here is that effective leadership must understand that our visible or invisible past, functions in powerful ways in any group when it is least admitted. The role of pastoral leadership is therefore not about affirming personal preferences, dislikes or likes, or even the past but to recall the focus of God; “who wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” and to transcend the barriers that divide people not only along racial, ethnic and economic lines, but also along fields of interests, character, likes and dislikes. Indeed diversity is difficult because sanctification is difficult, just as loving your neighbour as yourself is tough and made even more so when differences of culture, class and ethnicity are added to the mix.  As it happens, we tend to seek out those we like, and we like those who are similar to us in things such as thinking, preferences, status, and culture and alike.  Yet to like one another is not what we are called for, we are called to love one another. We must know how to love our neighbors individually and collectively for having one is having the other. Part of loving individuals is loving their differences, personality and culture since all is a part of them. It is in this tension of like and love that pastoral leadership must take place and witness to the multicultural nature of the Church. The image of a puzzle may help to explain what I am trying to say: Each piece of a puzzle is for the completion equally important, none of it looks the same or is formed in the same way, where pieces fit together best if they are snug with a touch of friction and the boarder pieces giver direction to all others. In short, our vast differences are in fact a necessity, and should not be feared or avoided to build up the body if indeed Christ is the head. 

             Ministry of the Word 

      There are two basic confessions in God’s word. The first is Peter’s confession in Jh 6:69: “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Our faith is built on that confession. This sets us free as we acknowledge that neither one of us is the Christ, I am not my own saviour, and I am not the perfect image/person etc. Yet, what responsibility do I carry for my knowledge? And that leads to the second one, Paul’s words in Acts 14:15: “We too are only men, human like you.” (NIV) At times I am more interested in proclaiming my spirituality than admitting my humanity. I want to deny that I too am mere mortal and appear super human. The fact is that God takes our weaknesses and turns them into his dwelling place, inviting others to come along. 
      When I am talking about weakness I am not talking about sins of any kind – like greed, overeating, or laziness. Rather, I am speaking of authenticity, accepting any limitation in our life or ministry that we’ve inherited and can’t necessarily change, as something God will use for His glory. Usually we resist or resent any limitation that we have in our ministry. We even ask God to remove them, Paul did, but look how that went. Or we use them to excuse our hesitation, Moses tried and got Aaron. But if God shows himself strong in these limitations, then why should he take them away? The fact is God works through our human weaknesses rather than eliminating them.
 “Snowflakes are frail, but if enough of them stick together they can stop traffic.” 
      Remembering our weakness, shortcomings and pains keeps us open to the hurts and needs of others. If we never struggled with any weaknesses, perhaps even struggling with temptation, ministry is out of touch with true life. Leaders who hide any struggles, and deny that they’ve had any pain are difficult to follow. Perhaps for that reason only few leaders of God’s people are mentioned in Scripture with little or no obvious struggle with sin. Somewhat our weakness and struggles will be used to expand our capacity to minister to others if we have handed them to God. Just as God comforted and strengthened us in times of doubt, struggle and pain, just as God loved us while we were still sinners, we can comfort others with the same comfort we’ve been given, we can love them with the same love that we are loved with. 
      Further, uncovered limitations of any kind prevent pride, something leaders will wrestle with perhaps more than others.  Paul for example had a thorn. We don’t know what that thorn was, but we know he was aware of it, did not like it, had difficulties to embrace it and yet we know it kept Paul humble for his and our good (cf. 2 Cor 12:7f).

“If you keep doing this, you will never fall away. Then you will also be given the wealth of entering into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore, I will always remind you about these qualities, although you already know about them and are well-grounded in the truth that you now have. As long as I’m still alive, I think it’s right to refresh your memory. I know that I will die soon. Our Lord Jesus Christ has made that clear to me. So I will make every effort to see that you remember these things after I die.” (GWT 1 Pet 1:10b-15)

This is a long way to explain why I tend to favour preaching, where the primary task on Sunday morning is "proclaiming" the reality of the world as it is under the Good News of Christ that renders all things new. This means that my first task is to describe the world as it is via the person and work of Jesus Christ, then invite the hearers into this reality by calling for submission, confession, obedience, or the affirmation of the truth.  I believe that in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, "the eyes of our thinking are opened, and we receive a new dream," and over time, through the working of the Holy Spirit our character changes, our view of the world changes, the way we see the poor, our money, our children, ourselves - everything changes because Scripture is alive, is real accounts, testimonies, and witnesses of God's people.

     Outside voices

It is easy to listen to one-self and to agree with one-self, even as a local church. At the same time, we are confronted with a diversity of diversities like never before and we are often ill-prepared to engage it as our immediate surrounding is becoming more global every day. Engaging diversity of thoughts and culture is something that cannot be ignored any longer. In a world that does not know how to reconcile, even less how to reconcile the paradox of diversity and unity in the multitude of ways it manifests, the body of Christ has a responsibility of engaging diversity of all forms since it is inherit in our faith. Although the natural response is to discourage or condemn that which is different from one's norm and the idea of embracing that which his different is unintuitive and alarming to us, we are called to seek those who are lost and who naturally will differ from us. Culturally diverse is how the church exists as a diverse body amongst the tribes, tongues and nations of this world. That does not however mean that we conform to this world in its behaviour, but rather that we continue to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, testing in order to discern what is good and acceptable and perfect as we have diversity and unity in the Triune God Himself, the first cause of everything. Therefor a leader needs to listen to others intentionally and purposefully, through mentorship, listening to other pastors, reading books (not just those he likes), conferences and pastor retreats to name a few. What is important as well is that I am listening to my wife for she is given to me for that purpose, to be my sounding board and co-worker of the gospel.

Some of my thinking has been greatly influenced by authors such as Timothy Keller, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reinhold Niebuhr, Ronald Sider and JR Woodward. I continue to read broadly and would say that the sentiment displayed by Paul in Phil 3:12-13 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” describes me best. 

I hope this gives you a sneak peek of some of my thoughts and what God has done and is doing in my life.

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