Many pastors find themselves in an interesting dilemma. We have been prepared for a model of institutional church that has lost its adaptability, and hence its vitality. We continue to love and serve that church, even though doing so often means our job becomes preserving our job… doing almost anything to keep those already in the church happy and comfortable, even if in so doing we must abandon the passion, the fire, the transgressive aspects of the gospel. I believe that much of our ministerial formation, be it denominational process or seminary education, is geared toward a defensive ministry. It is all we can do to keep this consumer-driven Enlightenment/Modernity model afloat.
Yet the Spirit is stirring. New forms of Christianity are emerging. Some are returning to ancient practices, are experimenting with new ways of structuring covenant communities. Many of our denominations are ill-prepared to incubate and embrace these new forms.
So my question is this. Would your ministerial formation process ordain Jesus?
It is time for those who embrace the new church to address the question of ministerial formation, offering re-training for those who wish to get on board as well as clearing the way within our denominational and educational structures for new styles and models of ordained ministry.
I have watched skilled ministers struggle implementing new church models because they themselves were not adequately prepared, because they approached vitality as tips and tricks rather than as a huge shift in which human need and practical theology intersect.
Who knows what new models of ministry may develop? Who knows what prophets we might embrace? One thing is clear: the new church cannot be born if we do not prepare a new style of leader to shepherd it.