Saturday, September 5, 2009
The Need for Theologically-Driven Ministry: Part 2
The following discourse is part of an internal discussion currently taking place among the leadership team at my church. As we are looking at our church's core documents (statement of faith, constitution, values/vision/mission statements, and philosophy of ministry), these posts are intended to help frame and guide these conversations.
Part 2: The Deity of Christ
In my last post on this subject I openly explored how the humanity of Christ (and in particular the doctrine of the Incarnation) needs to thoroughly impact our approach to ministry. Yet there is another side to this Christological coin. Only when we fully embrace both Christ's humanity and his deity can we ever truly develop an approach to ministry that in inherently Christ-centered. Theologically this could be expressed by the terms transcendence (e.g. God stands above us) and immanence (e.g. God is with us).
The tensions between Christ's humanity and his deity are not simply logical or theological issues. These tensions play out, perhaps unknowingly, within every Christian congregation. On every level of thought the finite and the infinite appear to be incompatible. The paradox of the Christian faith is that Christ held these two truths together despite their apparent incompatibility. Whereas the incarnation makes the inherent demand that ministry must be thoroughly embedded within the culture, the deity of Christ demands that ministry point towards a reality that stands above culture.
That last statement is dangerous if for no other reason than it is easily misunderstood. Far too often church leaders mistake a current form of ministry (which theologically belongs to the humanity of Christ) as an essential expression of the deity of Christ. On the other hand, the deity of Christ cannot be understood, communicated, or applied without appeal to his humanity. Christ can only be our Lord if he is first our substitute and he only reigns over his people in heaven because died for them on earth. Or, perhaps more clearly, we only recognize that he stands above us and beyond as God because he stood next to us as a teacher, brother, and friend. In similar fashion, the glory of Christ is only truly communicated in our ministry when it is thoroughly embedded within the personal and cultural context of the hearers.
Still, the goal of ministry is not relevance. The great mistake of the so-called 'seeker-sensitive' or 'emergent' churches is, whether by design or result, to see relevance as an end in itself. Relevance is only a redeemed concept when it is a means of communicating the fullness of the Redeemer. The goal of all ministry must be nothing other than displaying and enjoying the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
This idea is by necessity radical and all-encompassing. How is Jesus' Lordship displayed in our preaching? In our music? In our scripture readings? Even if we feel these are clearly definable, we must dig deeper. Is Jesus' lordship being most effectively displayed in our current Children's ministry? In our concept of youth ministry or nursery ministry? Would Jesus' lordship better be displayed in our families by keeping or eliminating Sunday School/children's church? Does our current practice of Church government fully embody the truths about Jesus that we regular preach? Does our current model and practice of tithing (passing the plate) enhance or detract from allowing Jesus to be Lord over our wallets & purses? How does our greeting ministry or print advertisements reflect on his lordship? These are the questions we must ask about every aspect of what we do.
Failing to ask these questions condemns us to being something less than fully biblical and fully Christ-centered. It also locks churches into struggles over preferences and traditions.
Summary - Key Statements:
1. Whereas the incarnation makes the inherent demand that ministry must be thoroughly embedded within the culture, the deity of Christ demands that ministry point towards a reality that stands above culture.
2. The goal of all ministry must be nothing other than displaying and enjoying the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
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