DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

What did you say my job was?

Written by: on May 31, 2019

It is interesting while reading through “What Clergy Do,” just how similar and yet, how different the various religious groups see their role as minister. Aside from the obvious male/female perspective in this read, there were also a variety of differences that were based upon the traditions and practices of the Church of England[1] as compared to the Church of Christ where I practice; even terminology references were not even words we use commonly in our own religious organization. With that said though, I have been working diligently to learn from a reading, rather than just noticing the differences of faith or belief; this book had a lot to offer.

In a hope to show my broadened horizons, I have decided that rather than picking on anything from this reading, I would instead highlight a few of the points that Percy made that I believe hit the nail right on the head; so here goes…

  1. “Mothering and parish ministry are both shaped by the particularity of a given relationship…she is in a relationship with these people and places (origins of ministry and the people there)[2].” Though of course I am not a mother, I do understand the point of familial leadership the author is trying to make here; too often I have felt more like a parent than a minister to the congregations I have served under. There is more than just a role of preaching and teaching; but also, there is this emotional attachment to them as a concerned parent that is working to keep them from harm; the harm in this case being evil. There is this need to explain something and make sure they understand the instruction. There is a concern that you cannot help but take home with you when one of them is struggling or even stumbles from their path. One day on the bus, the bus driver looked at my son as he passed the church and said, “Hey Braden that is where your daddy works.” To this comment my son replied, “Yes, but only on Sundays and Wednesdays.” Often I think people see the ministerial role as simply a job that just happens to not have the weekends off…but in fact…there is a much stronger emotional investment made.
  2. “There is an underlying assumption that the vicar (minister), as well as playing a significant role in leading the worship and a primary role in the sacramental aspects of such worship, is also in some way overseeing, shaping and actualizing the ministry that is the purpose of the church[3].” In our church we have a group of elders/overseers who make all the real decisions regarding main decisions for the church. However, there is the reality that no one in our church has the pulse on our congregation like I do; I counsel, greet, carryout social media conversations, and even follow many of our members on Twitter or Facebook; I also keep up with the youth program, grieving class, widows/widowers group, all benevolence programs, and the education curriculum. For these reason, everyone just laughed and agreed when one of the women said, “Shawn is pretty much one of our elders anyway.” It would be amazing to see how much time I had on my hands if I literally only did the job that I was hired for, but that is never the case in ministry. Baptisms, weddings, funerals, camps, VBS programs, teaching, song leading, finances, church redecorating, yard work, repairs, etc. Though Clergy are generally hired to preach, it does not take long before they are regarded as paid servants[4], expected to do whatever needs to be done.
  3. “The aim of bringing up children is that they will become independent in many aspects of their life so that they can be confident adults.” This is a struggle in regard to Christian “children,” because it seems that the church will always be dependent upon their ministers. I do not agree that this is the way it should be, but rather, this is the way it has ended up. It has become so frustrating to see those you teach for years, seem to show so little spiritual growth in themselves. I am often reminded of the critique in Hebrews 5:12 which said, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Imagine how insulting it would be if someone walked up and removed the steak from in front of you and replaced it with a jar of Gerber baby food, then said, “Sorry, but you are just not ready for this yet.” Would we be insulted? And yet, we see church buildings full of people that have sat in the same pew for years and yet, are still just as spiritually ignorant as they were twenty years ago.
  4. Lastly, Percy wrote, “To be ordained is a privilege[5].” Again, I turn to Scripture. “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment[6].” Perhaps Peter Parker’s uncle could also be quoted here; “With much power comes much responsibility.” With all my heart I believe there is no greater privilege than to be trusted with the teaching of God’s Word. I also believe that there is no greater fear than to think we wielded that Sword of Truth (for Mike) poorly. We have been warned that God is watching how we accept our roles of leadership; and I pray continually that the words that come out of my mouth are not mine, but HIS. We have been entrusted with the most powerful Word every spoken; but spoken poorly, will not just have consequences for ourselves, but also for all of those that have been entrusted to our care. Now, our church has never placed much focus on “ordaining,” but I have always believed in my calling as a Gospel Preacher; and I pray I live up to God’s expectations for that role.

[1] Percy, Emma. What Clergy Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2014.  P. 6.

[2] Ibid, p. 22.

[3] Ibid, p. 10.

[4] Ibid, p. 12.

[5] Ibid, p. 143.

[6] James 3:1.

About the Author

Shawn Hart

4 responses to “What did you say my job was?”

  1. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Shawn,

    Glad you got your post up in the end. I was looking for it until pretty late last night in our cohort but couldn’t find it. Your note today explained the situation.

    I think the Stone/Campbell movement was a powerful force in the US at an important time and that their desire to see the church unified once again had worthwhile foundations. However, it became clear, even as that movement divided, that the differences that separated were at times more powerful than those things that united. I think this is also evident in the 1st century church. That is why I liked Percy’s take on church ministry. Her idea of mothering helped me reflect on the different ways I have parented my 4 children based on their needs, personalities, issues etc. This got me to thinking that possibly this is what God is doing with all of us. I am not sure the denominational distinctions are as important to God as they are to us and may reflect the ‘mothering’ nature of God.

    Reading a text from an Anglican woman’s perspective may permit us a broader understanding of the nature of God and unique love demonstrated for all of Jesus’ followers. I am glad that you found some key points in this book that resonated with you and gave you opportunity to reflect on the role you have as a minister to the people in your community.

  2. Chris Pritchett says:

    Thanks for these highlights Shawn. I think the third point you make is a good one. Whereas in family rearing, we raise our kids and send them out, expecting them to be full-fledged adults when they turn 18 (or 35). In the church, we don’t complete the journey until we die, so we will always be “growing up in Christ” and in need of pastors to help us along the way.

  3. Greg says:

    Shawn
    You did a good job conversing with Percy. I too have never been a mother but also see and understand the analogy. We do parent in so many ways those that God sends our way. Figure out when to be involved and when to let they fly on their own is sometimes hard for a parent (and me) to differentiate.

    I love the groups (churches) that share responsibility and all people are being trained to lead…in our context it is being done in case the “leader” is removed from the area and we want to make sure the groups continue. If all are trained to lead a Bible study then it does become a hydra…if the head is removed then another can step up. 🙂

  4. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thanks for this post, Shawn!
    I enjoyed the way you ticked through things in the reading that resonated or related with your own experiences and outlook. It is so interesting the way that each context is different, each church tradition has its own terminology, and each church its own challenges. And then, at the same time, there is a through-line with all of this, where even with the differences, it’s largely the same as well.

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