Brian LePort has been posting a series entitled ‘Educating the Local Church‘. From what I can tell the series was born out of his frustration with the churches’ attitude towards academic; especially theology and Biblical studies.
Mark goes on to write,
The job of an academic is to teach truth via facts. An academic teaches information and equips the mind. The job of the pastor, and dare I say it the church as a whole, is to teach people how to live the faithfully as the people of God.
I would disagree with Mark but only in a very small way and not enough to really get into at the moment.
But, ironically, I’ve been thinking about this today before I saw Stevens’ post.
BW3 and N.T. Wright get a lot of flack from scholars, but many of us still like them for a variety of reasons. The shine I had taken to N.T. Wright has not worn off — I still like his tomes, although I think he has gone too far into the popular medium with his latest works; however, I have come to disagree with him more. Yet, I still like N.T. Wright for much the same reasons I like Ben Witherington III with whom I disagree with about a variety of issues concerning the Gospel of Mark(‘s ending).
Because they are critical scholars who engage critical issues and bring the academy into the Church. Yes, I disagree with them on many things, but I do not disagree with them on is their conviction that critical theology and scholarship is not for the average lay person.
Granted, with the recent spate of terminations for being too critical, it may be a long time before we see more Wrights and Witheringtons emerge.
Anyway, both Mark and Brian’s posts are worth reading even if this title has made Jim’s head explode.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree with Dr. Kirk. This is an issue that needs action. But reading these rants as a pastor, and actually doing something about it, I get tired of the bully pulpit.
My own little ‘Roo wrote this,
Pastors are among the most bullied people of any vocation. Because our roles are undefined or ill-defined everyone and anyone thinks they have a right to tell the pastor what they should and shouldn’t be doing. This subtle form of bullying comes from all quarters (even other pastors)…
…But our job as pastors is to pastor not be activists. Whether it is this or any other issue
The Joker to my Robin, Brian LePort, writes,
What is odd about these two posts is they reinforce the very clergy-laity divide that I assume Thompson and Stevens disdain. These posts assume that pastors do the heavy lifting and someone who teaches in a seminary classroom has no idea what it is like to do ministry.
The downfall of Jim Wallis was when he forgot to be a pastor. We need pastors – but we do not need pastors cramming things down our throat. Now, is Kirk right? Yes, but only broadly so.
What gets me about LePort (LePort!!!!!!!) is that I’m not sure what posts he is actually reading. I don’t get that from the two pastors at all. Instead, their points of easily made – being a pastor is not an active thing, but a passive thing. Seminary professors and others are actively engaging everyone – because they are paid to do so. They are paid to, from time to time, cause a little controversy. Publish a book. Do something different. Oh boy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Seminary Professors are any less any important or somehow deceptive, but their mission and callings are different. While I do not dismiss his role as associate pastor or interim youth leader, they aren’t exactly the same thing as pastor. Indeed, Brian had someone between him and the door. The pastor rarely does not, even in an episcopal setting. Further, he was in San Francisco. Not exactly the same type of people there as in the rest of the world. Further, while class room teaching can indeed ministry, not all ministry is pastoral. Does the seminary professor have the same responsibilities to the student as a pastor does? No. They don’t have to answer to the person if by their actions, they destroy the faith of some and push them out, only to find them later in a gutter somewhere, without hope and without faith. Yes, that does happen in classrooms, but honestly, isn’t that the goal of the classroom? A little bit of deconstruction and pushing into the right direction? Teachers aren’t pastoral – and THEY SHOULD NOT BE – but they can minister. Pastors, on the other hand, must be pastoral.
You know, one the things that I think modern academia has destroyed for us is that seminaries are for pastors and ministers. They should be for nearly every church member, if possible, especially for those taking lay roles.
But, moving on…
One of the things about activism is that it causes enemies. It does, let’s be honest. It is difficult for me, if I’m on a picket line somewhere, to set the next Sunday morning with someone that I was lobbing bottles and road apples at the week before (um, metaphorically speaking, of course). Further, a pastor who is an activist will often times push people out – and they are usually the very people who need the change the post. Why make pastors choose between being pastoral and activist? Let them be pastoral.
So, here’s the thing. Pastors to be a good pastor cannot always be the speaker. A pastor is to guide and protect. Let one of the sheep step in and do some damage, rough some stuff up, unsettle someone’s Christianity (TM) (C) (R)… then let the pastor guide the congregation into making the right decisions.
Pastors do too much – let us, the ones in the pew, the lay leaders, lay ministers and others who do not have to provide care for those that we might dearly oppose – be a little pushy.
Let me explain: Our Western tradition tells us that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole (What is left of the North Pole) with Mrs Claus and his elves and reindeers. Each year on Christmas Eve he sets out to deliver gifts to children all around the world. Unbeknownst to many parents who wait in line each year the mythical and legendary bearded fat man was once a real life person. In fact he was a Bishop.
Mark Stevens sent me a book to read on my long flight to China! What is better than N.T. Wright?
We have grown used to the battles over Jesus—whether he was human or divine, whether he could do miracles or just inspire them, whether he even existed. Much of the church defends tradition, while critics take shots at the institution and its beliefs. But what if these debates have masked the real story of Jesus? What if even Jesus’s defenders have been so blinded by their focus on defending the church’s traditions that they have failed to grapple with what the New Testament really teaches?
Bible scholar, Anglican bishop, and bestselling author N. T. Wright summarizes a lifetime of study of Jesus and the New Testament in order to present for a general audience who Jesus was and is. In Simply Jesus, we are invited to hear one of our leading scholars introduce the story of the carpenter’s son from Nazareth as if we were hearing it for the first time.
“Jesus—the Jesus we might discover if we really looked,” explains Wright, “is larger, more disturbing, more urgent than we had ever imagined. We have successfully managed to hide behind other questions and to avoid the huge, world-shaking challenge of Jesus’s central claim and achievement. It is we, the churches, who have been the real reductionists. We have reduced the kingdom of God to private piety; the victory of the cross to comfort for the conscience; Easter itself to a happy, escapist ending after a sad, dark tale. Piety, conscience, and ultimate happiness are important, but not nearly as important as Jesus himself.” As the church faces the many challenges of the twenty-first century, Wright has presented a vision of Jesus that more than meets them.
Mark Stevens, whom I occasionally profess undying love for on facebook, has written a piece, which while interesting, fails to get to the whole of the issue.
I wonder the academic world of writing and teaching has an allure reminiscent of celebrity pastors and mega-churches; but for the scholarly wannabes. Most churches in Australia and America average 100 people and yet most of the best seeling authors on such matters pastor churches of thousands! Likewise, most PhDs don’t get book deals which bring in the dough or the notoriety. They work faithfully in Bible colleges and seminaries without ever being noticed. I am told that most never end up with a tenured teaching position (ouch).
As one who wants nothing to do with the clergy, and instead will focus on scholarship, Mark is clearly talking about me, but you see, there was a time when there was no Evangelical, Conservative, or more to the right of Liberal scholarship.
Granted, this article was written in England, with different nuances on a few words, but over all, the author, one Alister McGrath, writes regarding the prayers issued for sound scholarship meant to uplift rather than destroy. The results?
We salute the roles of various publishing houses and their editors – IVP, Tyndale, Hodder, Paternoster, Lion, Grove and SPCK. Those of us who can remember back to the 50s and 60s may stand amazed. We encourage younger people to take note of this period of church history – and to join in thanking God for the prayers, the disciplined studies, the tenacity and the sheer fruitfulness of several decades of evangelical scholars.
So while Mark may caution us on the rush to mega-star status, let us also note that the results of scholarship, failed or otherwise, has greatly enriched the Church…
First, Australia was founded as a penal colony, hence Mark Stevens. Second, if you track the history of it, BC and AD were created in the 6th century and made it into English in 1708. So, hardly the stuff of foundations.
Further, while I do believe that all human history turned and still turns on the birth of Christ (more so the death, but okay…), the dating system is off.