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Pastoral Position Opening: Minister of Word and Sacrament in Geneva

The following is a lighthearted (and facetious), but historically realistic, job opening advertisement for a pastoral position in Calvin’s Geneva.

Position Focus:
Minister of Word and Sacrament in Geneva

Why This Position Is Needed

John Calvin’s alternate at St. Pierre’s had recently fallen ill. Although the other ministers in Geneva visited our colleague to pray for him on his deathbed, Pastor Abel Poupin, passed away on March 5th into the Lord’s presence.[1] Thus he leaves his position vacant. In addition to the passing away of Pastor Abel, another pastoral position has opened up. Pastor Jean Fabri has been deposed of his position. There have been claims made that he was making sexual advances (if not actually seducing) a married woman and also accusations have been made against him saying that he has gotten his serving girl pregnant.[2] After further investigation, the consistory has decided to dismiss Jean Fabri. Thus, we have two pastoral positions open.

The Church

The churches in Geneva are a multi-generational, multi-site network of churches located on the banks of of Lake Geneva at the mouth of the Rhone River. Our springs are wonderful, and our winters are bitterly cold. During the summer you and your family can spend time at the lake, but make sure to stay away from it during the winter. Many have died due to hypothermia! If you can ignore the fact that the Bernese, The Savory, and the French are always at odds with each other because of us, and the inconvenience that the plague brings, this is a great town to raise a family.

If you take this position you may be one day be appointed to serve as the pastor of St. Pierre’s Cathedral, Magdeleine, or St. Gervais (though in all likelihood you will probably begin by being appointed to pastor one of the countryside churches.)

Primary Responsibilities

‘The Scriptural office of the Christian minister involves nourishing and instructing God’s people on the divine Word by means of sermon, sacraments, catechism, spiritual conversation, and corrective discipline.’[3] Thus your job is divided into several categories:

Ministry of the Word

  • Preaching and teaching will form a bulk of your weekly work. In accordance with most others within the Reformed tradition your sermons ought to be expository, working through a single book, verse by verse (i.e. lectio continua).
  • Your particular parish will have at least four Sunday services. One of these Sunday services will be a catechesis service. This will mostly consist of children, though some adults who are converting Catholicism or Anabaptism will also attend this service. (You may also get some adults who are technically reformed, but are horribly misinformed about their faith).
  • You will also preach during weekday services (Monday-Saturday) and direct the Wednesday Prayer liturgy.
  • As one of eight pastors in Geneva you will be paired up with another pastor. You will alternate preaching duties with this pastor. On occasion you may be moved to another parish to fill needs.
  • There is an expectation that you will continue your theological and ministerial education. John Calvin lectures at 2pm on a book of the bible, verse by verse in Latin. All ministers are invited to be there.[4] There will also be a gathering of the congregation each Friday. Here you will have the opportunity to preach in front of the other pastors. You will receive feedback on your preaching from the other pastors and hear Calvin give his exposition of the text.
  • You are also expected to meet with the Company of Pastors on Friday afternoons.[5] There you will take part in the business of organizing services, making preaching assignments for specific pulpits at specific hours, examine candidates for ministry, etc.

 Ministry 0f Sacrament

  • The Lord’s Supper happens four times per year (even though we wish it could occur more regularly). The Lord’s Supper is to be celebrated at Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and the first Sunday of September.
  • All those who have reached the age of discretion and are able to satisfactorily articulate the basic doctrines of the faith are invited to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Thus the week before the Lord’s supper you must examine the catechumen regarding their understanding of the Genevan Catechism.
  • The week before the celebration of the Lord’s supper it is your duty to visit all your parishioners for spiritual examination and preparation. (Some of your parishioners will likely not want to talk to you, they may not even open the door for you! But you should find a way to examine them prior to the Lord’s Supper.)
  • It is your duty to ensure that certain people do not receive the Lord’s supper. For instance, those who wear ostentatious or provocative clothing, those who are insane or mentally impaired, and those who have been excommunicated cannot participate in the Lord’s supper. However, those who are demon possessed can participate as long as they behave peaceably.[6]
  • You will lead the rite of baptism before services. You must not use any superstitious elements which rob baptism from its true meaning (i.e. oil, salt, spittle, wax papers, etc.)
  • You ought to follow the baptismal liturgy which is published in the Genevan Psalter. First you should ask who is presenting this child to be baptized. Then you ought to deliver a five minute baptismal exhortation summarizing the gospel and the meaning of baptism. You also ought to give a defense of infant baptism. Once this is done, sure that those presenting the child for baptism recited the Apostles Creed and promise to instruct the child in Christian doctrine. You shall conclude by sprinkling the child on the forehead in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[7]

 Pastoral Services

  • Funerals
    • Burials generally take place in the afternoon. You ought not do anything which would approximate Roman Catholic masses for the dead. Funerals ought to be austere.
    • Burial must take place within twenty four hours of the death.
    • There is no specific church service, but by custom you ought to visit the home of the deceased before the procession of the gravesite. There you are free to speak some words regarding the faith of the person being buried.
  • Marriages
    • Marriage ceremonies occur prior to services. You must announce the banns for couples seeking to marry. If everything is in accordance with the rules you will follow the marriage liturgy and then begin the time of worship. Please ensure that the wedding party stays for the whole service.
  • Pastoral Visitation
    • The Venerable Company expects that all of Geneva’s ministers would pray for their parishioners…offer them spiritual counsel and consolation, correct their sinful behavior through discipline, and visit them in their homes.[8]
    • The Ecclesiastical Ordinances stipulate that every year before Easter pastors ought to visit all the households of the parish in order to examine the members of the household for the Lord’s Supper. As Beza has taught, ‘As a minister of the gospel it is our duty to fulfill all the duties that our office required, which includes chiefly the consolation of poor sick people.’[9]
    • You are also expected to conduct less formal visits throughout the year, especially when parishioners are suffering bereavement and extreme poverty. (The family of those suffering are expected to notify a pastor of any pressing needs.)
    • You are also expected to join a rotation of pastors who visit our local prison, the Evesche, on Saturday afternoons. Here you will preach a brief sermon, and help take care of the needs (spiritual and physical) of the inmates.
    • You are also expected to visit the sick and dying in the hospital, even though they may be suffering from the plague. We understand this can be a frightening thing. Some of our pastors have contracted the plague and died after visitations. However, we believe this is part of our pastoral duty.
  • Pastoral Services Towards Exiles & The Oppressed
    • At times you may have to follow Calvin’s lead in offering pastoral care to those who are suffering for their faith. This includes exiles who escaped from persecution and are seeking refuge in Geneva. You may also have to write letters to Christians undergoing persecution. You ought to encourage these brothers and sisters[10] reminding them of the great call that is upon their life to suffer for Christ. Remind them that he will give them strength to fulfill their duty.
    • Although Calvin was in the habit of writing letters to government officials and even going on journeys to other cities to lend support to persecuted protestants we do not expect you to go to the same lengths as Calvin did in offering these brothers and sisters pastoral care.[11]

Prior to Being Hired:

In addition to having the ability to fulfill the duties prescribed above you must be able to sign on to (with good conscience) the Genevan Catechism and the Ecclesiastical Ordinances. Also you must meet the following requirements, based upon Calvin’s theology of calling and ordination, prior to being hired:

All Christians have received a calling to glorify God and seek the well being of their neighbors. However this does not mean that Christian ministers do not receive a special calling in which they are entrusted with being “the chief sinew by which believers are held together in one body.”[12] Those who are called are ordained to govern the church through the act of preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments. These are the means by which God’s people are instructed and nourished. In order to take this job, you must agree that this is your primary vocation. You also must be able to describe the subjective aspect of your twofold calling. All those who are called to be ministers receive a conviction in their heart that one ought to aspire to ministry, not for personal gain, but out of a fear for God and a desire to edify the church. If you can testify that you have received such a call, the Church will determine whether you are objectively called as well. Once this is met, your theology and way of living will be examined by your fellow ministers. Second, the magistrates will give their approval of your ordination. Third, the congregation will give consent to our choice. Fourth, you will take office by the laying of hands. We sincerely believe that the church should seek the candidate, and not the candidate seek a church,[13] thus if we have a sense that you are the right candidate for this job we will extend an offer to you.


[1] McKee, “A Week in the Life of John Calvin”, 69.

[2] McKee, “A Week in the Life of John Calvin”, 74.

[3] Manetsch, 72

[4] McKee, “A Week in the Life of John Calvin”, 65.

[5] McKee, “A Week in the Life of John Calvin”, 73.

[6] Manetsch, 279.

[7] Manetsch, 258-9.

[8] Manetsch, 280.

[9] Manetsch, 287.

[10] McKee, 321 and 330.

[11] McKee 315-20.

[12] Manetsch, 71.

[13] Manetsch, 81.

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Analytic Theology in Pastoral Ministry

Last week a group of pastors from across denominations gathered at Fuller Seminary to explore the prospects of analytic theology for pastoral ministry. For many of the pastors there, this was their first exposure to analytic theology; so there was a lot of discussion on what exactly analytic theology is. The colloquium on analytic theology and prayer witnessed serveral presentations from Fuller’s AT team, including Oliver Crisp, Jordan Wessling, and James Arcadi. However my favorite presentation was not by anyone on the

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Bryan Fergus serves as a pastor at Calvary Community Church and as adjunct faculty at Phoenix Seminary.

AT team, it was by a pastor from Arizona: Bryan Fergus from Calvary Community Church. Bryan presented on the topic of Analytic theology in pastoral ministry. Here are my notes from his talk.

  • Why a D.Min?
    • Conviction that we need more middle men – pastor/theologians who can reach down from the academy from the churches and to reach up from the church to the academy w/issues that really face the church.
  • How can AT enhance my pastoral ministry?
  • Thinking this way theologically is good for us who are in the everday business of pastoral ministry.
    • Characterized by rigorous thinking – this is a good thing!
  • What are the benefits of AT for our role as pastors?
    • The precise, rational thinking encouraged by AT facilitates the responsive presentation of truth
      • Isn’t this an obvious given? Couldn’t we engage in any number of intellectual pursuits that hone these skills?
      • AT is uniquely equipped to help us with this part
      • Facilitates the ability to think more critically
        • Helps us grow in responding to “yeah… but what about this?” when we are preaching
        • Learn to anticipate the objections
      • Teach from the pulpit in a more logical and responsive way
    • AT presents a rational path to the faith that many need in our age of skepticism
      • AT is well equipped to walk the middle path between rationalistic faith and experiential faith
    • AT is uniquely equipped to address the “gaps” in our theological understanding.
      • Even those who affirm the authority of scripture, still have to deal with some “gaps” i.e. hell, why would a good, omnipotent, omniscient God create a world with a possibility of hell. We know THAT but we don’t know WHY or HOW of many things in Scripture work.
      • AT is friendly for the exploration of these gaps
      • Why not explore the how/why? Why not invest the same kind of energy we would with friends & family to really get to know God?
      • The endeavor of of exploring these gaps is an act of worship
    • Prayer – Petitionary Prayer and “Gaps”
      • Scripture calls us to pray…
        • Jesus tells his followers to ask their Heavenly Father for things that are important to them.
        • Jesus teaches his disciples a model prayer that includes petitions.
        • Jesus himself prays a prayer of petition.
      • Why or What difference does PP make?
        • God is omniscient… how do our petitions change anything if God already knows it happens?
        • God is perfectly good… why won’t he do the best thing anyway?
        • God is immutable…. How do our prayers make any difference to what God does?

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Apostolic Church Planting

Church planting is en vogue. You can find books upon books on the subject and even conferences on the topic that draw 1000’s of attendees. (I have to admit my favorite one of these conferences is Exponential.) But most church planting isn’t planting in the biblical sense. Yes it’s the start of new congregations, which is planting a “church” in some sense, but biblically church planting consists of starting new local gatherings with an emphasis on the creation of new disciples. At least that is what J.D. Payne, pastor of church multiplication at Brook Hills, has to say. Quite simply Payne defines church planting as,

Evangelism that results in new churches.

This (really) short book, which in some sense is a distillation of his longer book Discovering Church Planting: An Introduction to the Whats, Whys, and tumblr_inline_nh93znkgjr1qm2vhiHows of Global Church Planting, is an attempt to provide the reader with the essential aspects – practically and theologically – that are necessary for doing church planting in a Biblical fashion.

Payne begins with stressing the importance of nailing down your ecclesiology before you start planting. He then provides the reader with a sort of “pathway” to planting as well as the stages involved in growing a church plant. Most importantly, in my mind, Payne stresses the need for developing leaders which will one day oversee the church. This is clearly the Pauline model.

Overall, I found this book to be very helpful. It’s a clear and concise model for doing church planting. It draws its insights from Scripture, experience, and testimonies. I myself am not a church planter, but I have plenty of friends who are. After reading this book I came away with a better understanding both theologically and practically about what exactly it is that they are doing. I believe that this book could serve as a useful set of reminders for those who are planting churches. But I also believe, and I hope that this book will help spur on a new generation of church planters.

Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.

Theology and the Mirror of Scripture

What is an “evangelical?” Is there even such a thing? If one were to look at the vast spectrum of people who call themselves evangelicals, one might be tempted to say that there isn’t. Yet somehow, this moniker can’t simply be shaken off. People keep on calling themselves (and other) evangelicals. It’s a sociological-theological-historical term that I believe should not be abandoned. Even though its definition as a sociological reality is being stretched beyond recognition, there is such a thing as being a “mere” evangelical. And whatever it means to be a “mere” evangelical is defined by God’s word and God’s act.9780830840762

In their most recent book, Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account, Kevin Vanhoozer and Treier (V&T) have attempted to give an account of what such a “mere evangelical” theology might be. By the looks of their endorsers on the back of the book it would seem as though they have given a satisfactory account.

According to V&T mere evangelical theology begins with theological ontology, specifically with the Trinitarian God of the gospel. It begins with the economic Trinity which mirrors the immanent Trinity. However this Trinitarian God who reveals himself in history is not know to us apart from Scripture. So V&T also argue that the biblical testimony yields knowledge of this Triune God because it mirrors who this God is. As V&T say, there is truth and authority in this mirror. Mere Evangelical theology is focused on the God of the Gospel and the Gospel of God. God himself is the light. Scripture is a mirror of that light. Tradition is a mirror who’s light is not from itself but is derivative from the light of God reflected through scripture.

The second part of this book relates V&T’s theological ontology and mirror metaphors to various theological practices – specifically the interpretation of scripture, the role of tradition, and the role of scholarship in the church.

What unites V&T’s proposal for mere evangelical theology is the metaphor of “mirror” which is scattered throughout the book. I believe this is a helpful metaphor which (at least for me) helped me make sense of the ontological priority of God in doing theology and the primacy of scripture. But where it made things most clear for me is in the role of tradition in doing theology. Calling tradition a mirror was a helpful move, for it emphasizes that it still reflects the true light, yet in some derivative way which is not foolproof from distortions.

V&T’s proposal for thinking of theology as a mirror of the God of the Gospel and the Gospel of God is a very useful metaphor, it even has implications for ecclesiology, for one might even say that the Church and local churches are also mirrors of the God of the Gospel/The Gospel of God.

Overall, I highly recommend this book by two able theologians who have devoted much work to theological prolegomena. It fits right alongside Swain and Allen’s Reformed Catholicity as a book which addresses how to be reformed and evangelical while doing theology within the context of “mere” Christianity.

(Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.)

Structured for Mission

The technological revolution, transformed economies, capitalism, globalization, decentralization, individualism, commodification, fragmented communities, fragmented identities, alienation….

At the end of the 20th century these transformations converged creating a radical shift in social culture. (94)

Many churches have tried to respond to these changes with a greater emphasis on programs, structures, and new initiatives. Yet time after time, these things seem to fail. According to Alan Roxburgh, structures aren’t the real issue, it’s the narratives that lie behind the structures that are the real issue. So what churches need is not to restructure (though that may need to happen), but what needs to happen first is that there needs to be a shift in the narratives by which these organizations are working with. We need to understand the stories and narratives that have shaped the changes around us and those that have shaped the structures we currently use. This will take greater use of our imagination and the greater use of experimentation. Without experimenting it will be hard to “discover” the new story lines that need to take place. But most importantly what we need is to follow the Spirit’s leading. Throughout the history of the church, the Spirit has helped to change hearts and reinvigorate imaginations, even when the church seemed to get stuck in a rut.

Part one of this Structured for Mission lays out the changes in society that the church is addressing and lays out a theory of structures and legitimating narratives that shape those structures. In part two, Roxburgh makes a case for the kinds of shifts that need to happen if the church is going to move in health into the future.

I think Roxburgh is on to something important, that may church leaders need to hear: the problems the church is facing cannot be changed by merely tinkering around with our programs and structures, a deeper change is needed. Hopefully many will heed these wise words of Roxburgh.

A Fellowship of Differents (A Primer on the Christian Life in Community)

This is the most important book you may ever read outside of the Bible…

At least that’s what Derwin Gray says about A Fellowship of Differents, Scot McKnight’s new books. Now I really respect Derwin Gray and I definitely try to snatch up any new book that Scot McKnight writes – but really? The most important book you will ever read? That’s a pretty bold claim – and a really hard description to live by.

Gray has gone too far. However I will certainly agree that it is a good an important book for any believer, especially those in ministry to read. Basically McKnight helps us answer the question –

What Would Paul say to the church today?

McKnight takes the teachings of Paul, specifically his major emphases like Grace, Love, Unity, Holiness, and Flourishing and applies those themes to church life today. McKnight takes his deep understanding of the New Testament and his love for the church and gives insight into what a church that actually lives by God’s word might look like today.

Yes the book contains many criticisms of the state of the church in the West, but its all written out of a love for the church in the West. Sometimes you need someone to call out your failings so that you may grow from them.

Favorite Quotes:

  • If we want our church to become holy, we need to learn to spend time in God’s presence, basking in the light of his holiness. (119)
  • To love a person means that together in our mutual indwelling we strive unto kingdom realities, or Christlikeness, or holiness, or love, or full maturity in Christ. (61)
  • If some said, you must be kosher to eat with us, Jesus said, eat with me and I will make you kosher. (135)
  • The ideal Christian life is not a life of “rules and regulations,” but rather a life of irresistible, Spirit-Shaped, new creation freedom to do all God calls us to be. (149)
  • Faithfulness is not our own strength muscled up by determination and discipline and grit; nor is it our strength combined with God’s strength. Faithfulness happens when God’s strength is unleashed in us as we look to, lean on, and love God. (161)

So if you are looking for a primer on how to walk the Christian life in the context of community then this book is for you.

What is the Relationship between the Church and the Academy?

The issue is of considerable contemporary relevance. A very large number of colleges and universities in the United States were founded by denominations of the Christian church. Some of the most famous — Harvard, Yale, Princeton — retain selected elements of this foundation — an architecturally distinguished college chapel, for instance, or prayers at graduation ceremonies. But to all intents and purposes, these great schools have long since relinquished their Christian connection, and would not want to try to revive it in an academic world that prides itself on its multiculturalism. And the same observation could be made about hundreds more.

At the same time, this separation of church and academy is not universal. There are still a great many colleges that continue to profess their Christian allegiance. There are even new Christian colleges being established. Such institutions, however, whether newly formed or long established, tend to be regarded with suspicion by the secular academy. How can religious affiliation be compatible with academic integrity? Must it not put limits on the intellectual freedom essential to the life of the mind? It is not so very long, some will say, since the Pope suspended professors who taught contrary to the official doctrine of the Catholic church. Is this not inevitable, and no different from a far more famous case when the Inquisition sought to silence Galileo in 1632?

On the other side, of course, avowedly Christian colleges see a need to combat the corrosive effects of the secular academy, which is marked by a failure to engage in debate and discussion about some of the most fundamental human choices. Under the protestation of “neutrality,” such choices are declared to be a matter of personal “values” rather than the objectively ascertainable facts with which academic inquiry is concerned.

-Gordon Graham (HT: EerdWord)