Well the snow is here in Edmonton and people are starting to put up the Christmas decorations. This will be our third Yuletide on the other side of the planet from Oz, and after the initial shock of seeing a yard full of snow again, there is actually something bizzarely nice about this back the front land and the way they do the Christmas season.
I’m still getting used to being a pastor but I am really enjoying the journey we are on as a church. Over the last five or six weeks we have been exploring what heaven means, and I have been taken aback by just how big an impact this exploratory journey has had on our church family. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been that surprised, after all the way we see the future is meant to challenge the way we see the present.
Skye Jethani wrote:
What we think about tomorrow matters because our vision of the future is what determines how we understand the present. In a real sense today is defined by tomorrow. How we interpret our present suffering, our work, our purpose, even our relationships is defined by how we think about what lies ahead.
I’m looking forward to preaching in a couple of weeks about the way that heaven sets our purpose and goal, and that part of the discovery of this truth is the discovery that every person has a calling.
Jethani also points out that:
Rather than a command- and- control CEO model, where the pastor seeks to align every person and resource around the church’s institutional goals, leaders should be equipping God’s people to fulfill the specific callings they have received from the Lord because these specific callings are a significant way God’s work is manifested in the world.
Specifically he says:
It is not the pastor’s task to wrestle more people away from “secular” engagements in order to help him accomplish “sacred” work, but to erase these categories in the lives of those he leads in order that Christ might come to reign over all parts of their lives.
I wholeheartedly agree with Jethani and wrote along similar lines in my book 6 Radical Decisions. The challenge I am faced with, as a pastor, is how to make the ideal a reality.
At 6 a.m. every Tuesday morning, for over a year now I have been meeting with a bunch of guys as we wrestle with what it might actually mean to discover an fulfill the calling that God has on your life. I know we are heading in the right direction, but we are very much on a steep learning curve as we come to terms with the fact that, while there are many people who agree with the idea that the job of the church is to provoke and support people to find and fulfill their callings, there are very few examples of what that might actually look like in practise.
One of the bible passages that has been affecting my thinking about how we might work this out in practise is Ephesians 4:11-12:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
A number of thinkers about the emerging church reference this passage, probably the person who has had the greatest influence has been Alan Hirsch in his book the Forgotten Ways.
Most of this discussion though has been focussing on how we find and release these gifts in the church. What has had me thinking though, is what is it that the Apostle Paul saw that these people doing that would result in the building up of the church. I’m wondering whether this line of thinking might be helpful in working out what it might actually mean to see the vision Skye casts become a reality.
While there is some debate about these different functions, I’d like to suggest the following functions are reasonable assumptions about what Paul might have had in mind;
- The task of the Prophet was to point out the ways in which the world falls short of the purposes of God.
- The task of the Evangelist was to remind the church and introduce outsiders to the reality that Jesus is the centre of the universe.
- The task of the Apostle was to provide leadership on the basis of the God given vision.
- The task of the Pastor was to support individuals to navigate the particular journey that God has for them
- And the task of the Teacher is to help those individuals know God’s revealed truth in a way that provides guidance for their lives.
With these things in view, I’d like to suggest it may be possible to identify the specific ways we
need to be provoking and supporting one another towards finding and fulfilling our callings. I wonder, whether Skye’s vision of the church comes to fulfillment as it becomes normal to be:
- Allowing ourselves to be deeply affected by the brokenness in the world
- Putting Jesus first in everything
- Working towards a particular vision of the future that motivates our specific actions
- Finding fellowship and support on the journey
- Continually engaging with God’s word and allowing it to shape our understanding of the other four things
Further along this path, perhaps its possible to identify five questions that might help to frame how far along the journey of finding and fulfilling their calling an individual might be. I wonder whether central questions in this process are:
- What are the things that make you most frustrated, sad or angry in the world?
- What is Jesus saying to you?
- What is a picture of the future that would excite you if you were able to work towards it?
- How many people really know what life is like for you?
- In what ways would your life change if you took what the bible is saying seriously?
These kinds of questions are dangerous questions. They demand something of us, and they make clear why we need the gifts active in the church, because they are questions that cannot be answered in isolation.As we move forward as a church, these are the questions I will have in the back of my head as we wrestle with what it means to align our church towards the end that Skye suggests.
Its a fascinating journey.