Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Theology meets: EVERYTHING

Pastoral ministry is bizarre. In contrast to the majority of specialized vocations in our culture, pastoral work, addressing whole people, whole community, and cosmic forces, seems to be the place where physiology, psychology, history, philosophy, art, economics, politics, theology, leadership, nutrition, and nearly every other discipline converge. Thus the pastor finds himself in the position of needing to discern across these vast realms, seeking to understand what is needed.

Addictive behavior is a great example of this. Is addiction purely psychological? The weight of science indicates that there's a strong physiological component as well. Is there a spiritual component too? Nutritional?

Ours is culture with depth of expertise in virtually every area. Meanwhile, here's the pastor - with a breadth of knowledge, not very deep, spanning the whole of culture. The problem with breadth is that there's a continual danger of shallow answers and inaccurate assessments. The problem with depth is that the specialist sees everything in terms of his/her discpline. As someone once said, 'to a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail'.

The church, it seems, needs to be a community bringing sound theological underpinnings to the application of all these disciplines. This is what makes pastoral ministry so challenging, and at the same time, so enjoyable. In the course of a week, a pastor might be addressing the physiological, psychological, and spiritual components of suicide, ADD, and addictive behavior. In addition, they'll face issues related to family dynamics and economics as they deal with issues of homelessness and bankruptcy.

We who are pastors do ourselves a dis-service when we refuse to listen to the specialists. We're equally irresponsible when we grant specialists absolute, priestly authority, refusing to bring theology to bear on a particular discipline. Ministry isn't meant to be about putting on a nice little show on Sundays, so that we can then get on with our lives. It's about equipping us to live out our professions faithfully and fruitfully, and to be a community where people are empowered to use their gifts in such a way that Christ's presence increases in the neighborhood. This requires both specialists...and pastors...and sound theology.


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