November 21, 2016

My Greek Is Ok, But My Preaching is Rubbish

I thought I would put the equation around the other way and see if how satisfactory it sounds.  And it sounds dreadful, does it not?

Why am I doing that?  To be cheeky obviously.  But my last post touched a nerve. It’s certainly run its course on Facebook, that’s for sure. The nerve it touched indicated that there are hundreds of preacher/pastors out there who get more than a little ticked off by what they perceive to be a disconnect from their day to day ministry experience among theological educators.

My post appeared to give voice to a quiet resentment felt toward academics who tell pastors what they need to get right, and that includes Greek.  It at least gave permission for people to go “Phew, I’m not the only one!” Especially when every other conference is telling them how their church planting skills can be better, or their leadership skills can to be better or their whatever needs to be better.

We all know we need to be better –  but we’re going to hear that from people walking in our shoes a lot more readily than from specialists in the academy. Now of course we are grateful for those whom God has gifted in particular ways, but care needs to be taken by specialists when they speak to generalists.

The average professional church ministry in Australia is not a specialist role, but a generalist one.  Hey that’s not ideal, but it’s the reality.  And unless giving increases fivefold in most churches, that’s the way it’s going to stay.


The Holy 8-ball of Antioch that decides between different readings

So when you’ve only got one big plate to spin it’s easy to see why that plate is the most important.  But when you’re spinning eight smaller plates, as many ministers undoubtedly do, they all need a measure of attention.  If you don’t do that you’re going to have more smashed plates than a, er, Big Fat Greek Wedding.  So we have to decide what percentage of each week to give to which tasks. The more task there are, the more the pie has to be sliced up.

Unless you are in a church of many hundreds in which you have a specific role then ignore those other spinning plates to your detriment. Ignore the ones you don’t like at your absolute peril. Pay too little attention to the difficult, but necessary one, and eventually it will come crashing down, and it might bring your ministry with it.  (Did anyone mention “prayer”, btw?)

Preaching is a necessary plate, so it must get attention, but how many ministers go into ministry because they are gifted to preach, only to find by week’s end their time and their minds have been swamped by other stuff?  The primary reason you go into ministry then becomes a millstone around your neck.

The general ideal is to have amazing koine Greek and be a fantastic communicator of the Word.  My ideal is to be the preaching pastor of a large church in which all of the admin, the pastoral care frameworks, the day to day thinking of and running of the “stuff of church” outside the preaching process is not carried out by me.

But not only is that my ideal, it is my idol. It is a pipe dream during the long stretches of week-in/week-out in ministry, and it presupposes that if I could slice up ministry into discrete portions, and hive off the ones I don’t like, I would be on to a winner.

And if you’re reading this thinking “Just put the Five Ms or the Three Whatevers into place and fill the roles with other people“, then you’re probably riding on the coat-tails of Christian white collar professionals whose trained in administration and leadership was undertaken in a secular tertiary setting.  Those people don’t inhabit working class areas such as mine by and large, though I’m open to offers of those who want to relocate.

But then again many in your church are heading to work tomorrow wishing that the part of the task they love is the only part they have to do, and that they could slot other people into the stuff they don’t like.  Most of us have to muddle by.

By far the best comment I received  was from a pastor who said:

One day, I’d like to do a public lecture and assert: “unless you’ve worked in ‘the real world’ with ‘the average Aussie’ for a minimum of 10 years, please don’t be a pastor in that context.”

That picks the eyes out of the issue as far as I am concerned.  There’s a growing disconnect between those of us who can preaching about Babylon, and those who have to drive there tomorrow morning to work in the king’s court.  And unless you even understand what is going on in their settings, then your preaching won’t connect, Greek or no Greek.

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There is no guarantee that Jesus will return in our desired timeframe. Yet we have no reason to be anxious, because even if the timeframe is not guaranteed, the outcome is! We don’t have to waste energy being anxious; we can put it to better use.

Stephen McAlpine – futureproof

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