Pastoral Survival Guide: by Rowland Croucher.
The Characteristics of Pastors who make the Distance.
After listening to hundreds of their stories, I believe that there are the ten characteristics of pastors – women and men – who ‘make the distance’.
- We have looked at Jesus as our Model, Spiritual Formation, Images of Ministry (Posted 5th March)
Todays post will look at a very important foundational principle, Spiritual Disciplines.
1-5 SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES
The spiritual life cannot be nurtured without discipline. So make a chapel or oratory somewhere, perhaps a corner of your bedroom, away from interruptions (put the telephone answering machine on), where you do your prayer and Bible/spiritual reading (not ‘Bible study’ or sermon preparation: that should be done in another place at other times). Daily solitude is not a luxury; it is a necessity for spiritual survival. If we do not have that within us, from beyond us, we yield too much to that around us.
Spiritual wisdom suggests we begin our ‘quiet time’ with a Bible word, phrase or prayer (‘Be still…’, ‘Maranatha’, ‘Lord, have mercy on me a sinner’). ‘Occupy yourself in it without going further. Do like the bees, who never quit a flower so long as they can extract any honey from it’ (Francis de Sales).
‘Lectio divina’ is the slow, reflective reading of the Bible. Scripture is God’s personal word to me – for my ‘formation’ not just information. I read it reverently, ready to be ‘converted’ again and again (conversion begins but never ends), willing to be led where I may be reluctant to go, believing that God has yet more light and truth to reveal to me, and to the church. I try to learn to ‘meditate on the Word day and night’ (Psalm 1:2).
The Daily Office is an excellent structure for daily devotions. Try the Australian Anglican Prayer Book or the Daily Devotions section in the New Zealand Anglican Prayer Book. The Daily Office, says (Baptist) Stephen Winward is absolutely scriptural, God-centred, depends on an ordered use of Scripture (including difficult and challenging passages), is corporate, educative (we’re in touch with prayer traditions centuries old) and ‘obligatory’ (even though the discipline is sometimes hard). Of course, as the Protestant Reformers emphasised, it can be mechanical and formal, but it doesn’t have to be. ‘Few things are needful, or only one’ says Jesus to Martha (Luke 10:42 RSV mg.).
Be still, and know that he is God. Contemplation is the awareness of who (and where) God is. The intellect and lips are still, and one is open to beauty, goodness, wisdom, gentleness and love – in short, to transcendence. It’s the descent of the ‘Word’ from mind to heart. The most important element in the contemplative life is not knowledge, but love. This is a hard discipline for ‘heady’ and busy people.
Christian spirituality issues from, and creates Christian community. We have suffered from too much privatised religion (‘receiving Jesus as your personal Saviour’ is not an expression we got from the Bible).
Pastors, too, need to be accountable spiritually to someone. ‘Self-made Christianity’ is a contradiction. And remember, pastoral ministry is not automatically self- (or spirit-) nurturing. Because you handle holy things doesn’t ensure you’re a holy person.
So we will find a spiritual director, a ‘soul friend’, someone who helps one respond to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, listening together to the Lord.
The key question in direction is not ‘Who am I?’ (that’s counselling) but ‘What happens when I pray?’ Spiritual direction is all about following Jesus who taught his disciples to pray. So did the apostles: read the magnificent prayers in Ephesians 1 and 3 and Colossians 1, where Paul spells out how he prays for his friends – obviously modelling a way to pray he would like them to emulate. However, Spiritual Direction is not, in essence, directive (it’s the Spirit who directs). We come to God, said Augustine, not by navigation, but by love.
The sacraments are the Lord’s specific gifts to his people: the corporate acts par excellence of his church.
Fasting is a good regular or occasional discipline. Fast from food, words, TV, spending money, the telephone, sex, watching sport – whatever will help get ends and means in perspective for a while.
Silence is ‘the royal road to spiritual formation’ (Nouwen). It is not just the absence of noise, but an opportunity to listen to the still small voice of the Spirit. ‘Meditation’ is a way for Scripture to be internalised not merely (as in Transcendental Meditation) a technique to ‘calm down’.
Journaling is a useful means of recording the promptings of the Spirit in our lives. A spiritual journal is a written response to reality: a record of one’s inner and outer life (including dreams), a way to inner growth, reflection and healing.
Prayer cannot be divorced from daily living. Baron Friedrich von Hugel’s first suggestion to Evelyn Underhill when he was invited to be her spiritual director: visit the poor in inner-city London two days a week. After all, the Spirit, says an ancient Latin hymn, is pater pauperum, ‘father of the poor’.
A final word from Bonhoeffer: ‘It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he or she is, but participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world’ (Prisoner for God, SCM, 1953, 166).
Rowland Croucher (born 1937) is an Australian pastor, counsellor and author.
Brought up in the Open Brethren in Sydney, following a five-year career as a high-school teacher, Croucher began training in 1964 for the Baptist ministry in New South Wales. He worked for the InterVarsity Fellowship (1968-1970), now the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES); then pastored churches in Australia: Narwee and Central Baptist Church – both in Sydney – and Blackburn Baptist Church in Melbourne, which became a “megachurch” in the late 1970s, with seven pastors, a salaried staff of 25 and 1,000 attending; plus several interim ministries. He was then, briefly, pastor at First Baptist Church, Vancouver, Canada. From 1983 to 1991 he worked for World Vision Australia.
Since 1991, Croucher has been founding director of John Mark Ministries, serving pastors, ex-pastors, church leaders and their spouses throughout Australia and elsewhere. The John Mark Ministries website, with 20,000 articles, claims to be the most accessed non-denominational religious website in Australia.
Croucher has authored 12 books, including Still Waters Deep Waters (with 35,000 copies in print) and has been a regular participant on Australian radio and TV programs. (Wikipedia)
WHAT IS SURRENDER 15
SURRENDER:15 MAKING THINGS RIGHT
There is a brilliant conference happening in March called Surrender. This is a great opportunity to discover God’s heart for justice; listen to our Indigenous brothers and sisters, encounter Jesus’ call to follow Him to the margins.
The SURRENDER conference is a gathering of Christians from across Australia to share ideas, stories and hope on justice, discipleship and mission.
The SURRENDER conference is for people from all walks of life – with workshops for first-timers, gathering spaces for the tribes, amazing programs for kids and youth, and heaps more!
WHAT’S SURRENDER:15 ALL ABOUT?
In its deepest form poverty and sin comes from our broken relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the earth and is expressed spiritually, socially, mentally, emotionally, economically and in the earth itself. We desperately need to see things made right in all these relationships! Jesus comes to see us reconciled to God, reconciled within ourselves, reconciled to our human family and reconciled to the earth he created.
At SURRENDER:15 we’ll explore together God’s purpose for us as agents of reconciliation in a broken world. How do we as the church and as individuals find our identity as peacemakers and restorers of broken relationships…
The conference has main KEY NOTE sessions and in the afternoons workshops and electives so that you can custom design your experience
BEING MADE RIGHT
Jesus wants us to experience an inner journey of reconciliation where we come to experience a deep connection with Him and a discovery of a deep and whole inner life. Out of this flows a powerful Spirit birthed capacity to love others and walk alongside them as they too take this journey.
AMBASSADORS of RIGHTNESS
As passionate followers of Christ we are commissioned to seek His kingdom coming in all the world and be ambassadors of His reconciliation! As we surrender to His will we can be part of the process of seeing things made right in our streets, our nations, and our earth!
RIGHT IN IT TOGETHER
We don’t engage in seeing things made right all by ourselves but are sustained and empowered together as sisters and brothers united by a shared heart. The greatest times of things being made right always happen when we engage not just as individuals but as communities that bring restoration!
SESSIONS Main sessions, bible studies, workshops and conversations on…
- // Living to see things made right in our world and our neighbourhood
// Moving out into our communities and seeing the upside down Kingdom emerge
// Forming deep, healthy and transformational communities
// Biblical reflections on justice and discipleship
// Inviting your church on the missional journey
// Rhythms of Contemplative Spirituality
// Why Jesus cares about Politics
// Using art and beauty to stir up change
// Gender and our journey towards wholeness and discipleship
// Understanding and engaging with and across culture
// Making things right in our relationship with the environment
AN INCREDIBLE LINE-UP OF SPEAKERS
RUTH PADILLA DE BORST
Ruth has been involved in leadership development and theological education for integral mission in her native Latin America for many years. She is a missionary, theologian, teacher, activist and member of the Casa Adobe community.
As a missionary with Christian Reformed World Missions she first served in student ministry with the Comunidad Internacional de Estudiantes Evangélicos (IFES), next with Seeds of New Creation, a ministry that trains for and promotes holistic mission in El Salvador, and later with the Institute ProIntegral Education. She lives in Costa Rica where she shares parenting of their blended, multi-cultural family with her husband, James Padilla DeBorst, and community life with the members of Casa Adobe.
Parish Collective, USA
Paul Sparks is co-founder of the Parish Collective and the Inhabit Conferences. He has done parish tours and trainings in over 500 neighbourhoods across North America and is the co-author of The New Parish. A Community Organizer and Social Entrepreneur, Paul’s place-based expertise and trusted friendships in neighbourhoods across North America make him an indispensable consultant to academic institutions, community organizations, and faith-based groups. He has served as a Pastor and Community Developer for 25 years and often consults groups seeking to understand the transition toward more local forms of everyday ecclesial life. He curates a growing faith community in Tacoma, Washington.
Christian Peacemaker Teams
Sarah is the Executive Director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, a multifaith international organization committed to building partnerships to transform violence and oppression.
She is a border-walking scholar-activist at heart and a biracial Mennonite Christian who goes and comes from the Great Lakes Watershed. She attended Spelman College majoring in Comparative Women’s Studies and International Studies, and received her Masters of Divinity from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.
Her current growing edges are related to her interest in postcolonial theology, menstruation and power analysis, social movement building, and alternatives to robotic warfare and society.
Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship, Australia
The Rev Neville Naden has years of experience in various Indigenous ministries and he is the current chairperson of the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship (AEF). He lives and ministers in Broken Hill, NSW with his wife Kathie at the Living Desert Community Church. Neville and Kathie moved to Broken Hill at the beginning of 2007, where they have developed a number ministries including a booming youth ministry, Sunday Church services, a youth drop-in centre and a community garden. Neville and Kathie are seeing growth in all areas of their ministry with all services, including the youth bible studies put on three times a month and the weekly church services increasing in numbers.
RT REV JUSTIN DUCKWORTH
Bishop of Wellington, NZ
Bishop Justin has been at the cutting edge of mission and ministry in Wellington for 25 years. He was a co-founder and leader of Urban Vision, which runs houses in some of Wellington’s neighbourhoods, in which
young Christians live alongside folk from the margins. Justin and his wife Jenny also pioneered Ngatiawa, a contemporary monastery which provides a welcome to those who are struggling, those seeking prayerful retreat, and those seeking a missional lifestyle.
Collective Shout, Australia
Melinda is best known for her work addressing the objectification of women, sexualisation of girls, global trafficking and violence against women. Melinda is also co-founder of the grassroots campaigning movement, Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation, is an Ambassador for World Vision, Compassion, and the Raise Foundation, and was named in the Who’s Who of Australian Women and the World Who’s Who of Women.
STEVE JAMPIJINPA PATRICK
Steven Wanta Jampijinpa Pawu-Kurlpurlurnu Patrick is a Warlpiri elder from Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert. He is an experienced educator and cross-media artist who has worked on numerous programs for the Northern Territory Department of Education, the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, and most notably, the Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation’s acclaimed Mt Theo Program.
Common Grace, Australia.
“Jarrod is the sort of God-botherer I enjoy being bothered by. His passion, compassion & humour are all things this world needs more of.” –Wil Anderson (Comedian & host of The Gruen Transfer)
Teaching Pastor at Westcity Church. Co-Founder of First Home Project. #LoveMakesAWay enthusiast. National Director of Common Grace. Trainer of Christ-like larrikins. Wants to be more like Jesus, and less like a jerk.
Jarrod is speaking at SURRENDER Youth Night
Jisas Wantaim, Australia
Billy is originally from the Kamilaroi people of North-western NSW. Billy is a pastor for dhiiyaan Northside Church and co-ordinates Jisas wantaim, an organisation that seeks to equip, empower and enable the emerging generation of Indigenous Christian leaders.
Ray Simpson is the Founding Guardian of the Community of Aidan and Hilda. He is an ordained Anglican Priest and has held a number of ministry positions including a neighbourhood church plant, sponsored by six church denominations in Norwich, England. Ray has lived on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in England for nearly 20 years where he runs retreats for pilgrims and consults on church renewal strategies. He is the author of a number of best-selling books on Celtic spirituality, new monasticism and patterns of prayer and he lectures around the globe on Celtic Christian Studies.
Thursday 19 March:
10am – 4pm
Youth Leaders Training Day pre-conference
Friday 20 March:
9am – 11pm
Including SURRENDER Youth Night
Saturday 21 March:
9am – 11pm
Including SURRENDER Indigenous Night
Sunday 22 March:
9am – 2pm
8.30am – 9.00am
9.30am – 10.30am
11.00am – 12.30pm
Eat, Share & Explore
12.30pm – 2.00pm
Workshops & Conversations
2.00pm – 5.30pm
Eat, Share & Explore
5.30pm – 7.00pm
Full Conference $165
Concession Full Conference $115
Day Pass $80
Concession Day Pass $50
SURRENDER Kid $45
AT: Belgrave Heights Convention Centre 3 Convention Ave, Belgrave Heights, VICTORIA.
For more info & to register
phone 0403 177 995
These are Beautiful paintings from Russian Artist Olga. Enjoy some weekend gazing at Art. As we are moving into autumn! Russia is thawing out for Spring.
Jiri Dvorsky is a brilliant graphic artist that I found down a rabbit hole. I was looking for amazing pictures whilst creating Sunday Everyday. I found one of Jiri’s pieces on Google Images, I then had to track down the artist so that I could please please please get permission to use his work and not infringe on copyright. I finally found Jiri on Deviant Art where we met and started a conversation which led to his permission for me to use his work and then to this interview. *Insert Happy Dance here.
Let me remind you that English is not Jiri’s first language and it has taken some effort for Jiri to write for us today, for which I am very grateful. Jiri is a professional graphic artist from the Czech Republic. You can view Jiris amazing work here at Deviant Art
Every Artist loves feedback so if you pop in to have a look at his work, please leave a comment for him and also let him know that you found his work through Sunday Everyday. He would really appreciate it.
Jiri tell us a bit about yourself, where you live, where you work, about your family?
It‘s a bit like saying which child you love most. 🙂 Mostly I like my last painting, but in the long term I very like pictures “The Circle” and “In my Hands”.
“In My Hands”
I’m happy if they would find in my paintings something that touches their hearts. And it does not matter if someone understands my painting differently than I had thought. On the contrary, in this it’s the magic, that each can find in my paintings their own ideas and feelings.
Pastoral Survival Guide: by Rowland Croucher.
The Characteristics of Pastors who make the Distance.
After listening to hundreds of their stories, I believe that there are the ten characteristics of pastors – women and men – who ‘make the distance’. Here are three of them.
1.. RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
1-1 JESUS OUR MODEL
Christian ministry – of any kind – is simply doing in our world what Jesus did in his. Jesus is our pattern for ministry – to God and for the world. Close communion with the Father was at the heart of all he was and did. As his disciples saw this reality they wanted to be part of it (why don’t more people ask us to teach them to pray?). His prayer-life was disciplined and ordered, although he too, was busy. It began with a contemplation of God – ‘Our Father’ – before moving to human need.
He prayed hard before important decisions, like choosing the twelve. His meditation on Scripture gave strength in times of testing, particularly when the devil wanted him to do ministry another way. Time was found for prayer – 40 days, a whole night, very early in the morning. Hurry is the death of prayer. (When did you last take a retreat?) Nowhere did Jesus pray ‘to feel good’: for him, and for us, the key imperative is obedience.
1-2 SPIRITUAL FORMATION is the process whereby the Word of God is applied by the Spirit of God to the heart and mind of the child of God so that she or he becomes more and more like the Son of God. It’s ‘growing firm in power with regard to your inner self’ (Ephesians 3:16). It’s the maturing of the Christian towards union with Christ.
Assumptions of spirituality include
* God is doing something before I know it
* Love and prayer are gifts
* The aim of spiritual formation is not happiness, but love, joy, peace – and courage and hope
* Prayer is friendship with God, a response to his love
* Prayer is subversive: it’s an act of defiance against the ultimacy of anything other than God
* We are always beginners in the life of prayer: pray as you can, not as you can’t (‘to seek to pray is to pray’).
1-3 IMAGES OF MINISTRY
The minister – whether pastor or other – serves by introducing persons to Jesus, our only antidote for alienation. Alienation (sin) is the severing of self from self, self from others, self from God; and all these are connected (if I’m alienated from self I won’t be OK with others). The opposite of alienation is belonging: the process is called metanoia (‘turning’ from blaming to owning one’s alienation and being ‘converted’). Truly ‘converted’ people are eucharistic, thankful, grateful.
# Wounded Healer: The minister of Christ expects trouble (as Jesus promised) in a world tempting us with clean sorrow and clean joy. The Lord is closer when we are vulnerable, when we stop pretending to be powerful, and admit how wounded we are. Personal spiritual renewal comes only through brokenness, dying (Psalm 51:10-12,17, John 12:20-28). The Christian life begins and continues as a via crucis.
We recognise Judas and Peter in ourselves – we’re both wicked and weak. And yet, in our despair, when resurrection seems unlikely we hear him in the garden or on the sea-shore, alive, calling us by name. Because we are identified with a dying/risen Christ, our ministry is a ‘living reminder’ of this oneness. So we will avoid crucifixion-only spiritual masochism or resurrection-only triumphalism. And our pastoral task is to prevent others suffering for the wrong reasons.
# Servant Leader: Ministry is the translation of the Good News into human relationships. It’s having authority to empower others to live in the Kingdom.
‘Authority’ = a firm basis for knowing and acting; ‘authorities’ maintain their position after knowing/acting have finished, and ‘lord’ it over others (which is why people who climb institutions often have difficulty maintaining a spiritual life).
Jesus, in contrast to the authorities, was a servant, identifying with us in our ordinariness (the Suffering Servant wasn’t good-looking, Isaiah 52:13). So ministry has to do with ‘the quiet homely joys of humdrum days’ (Sangster), the sheer Mondayness of things. Such servanthood is indiscriminate (if I cannot embrace someone, it is because he or she reminds me of some fear in myself). But let us remember: if we live to please people, we become slaves of those people. Instead of one master (Jesus, whose yoke is easy), we end up with numerous Pharaohs who are never satisfied with our performance no matter how much we do.
Our servant role is well expressed in Colossians 1:24-29 and Acts 20:28 (‘Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.’). As we are called to be servants of the church, we also affirm that the church is not our master – Christ is.
During the installation of a pastor, the congregation is asked two questions phrased something like this: ‘And you, people of God, will you receive this messenger of Jesus Christ, sent by God to serve God’s people with the Gospel of hope and salvation? Will you regard him/her as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God?’
# The Scholar Teacher (Latin schola = free time): Henri Nouwen (Creative Ministry) contrasts violent and redemptive teaching models. ‘Violent’ teaching is competitive (knowledge is property to be defended rather than a gift to be shared), unilateral (the teacher is strong/competent, the pupil weak/ ignorant), and alienating (students and teachers belong to different worlds). ‘Redemptive’ teaching is evocative (drawing out potentials), bilateral (teachers are free to learn from students), actualising (offering alternative life-styles in a violent world).
# Coach/Empowerer. The Protestant Reformation put the Bible into the hands of ordinary people, and just about everybody agrees we now need a new Reformation to put ministry into the hands of the laos – but many/most clergy will resist it. (Why do we persist in using the word ‘minister’ in the singular?) The clergy are part of the laity, equipping us all towards spiritual growth and maturity (Colossians 1, Ephesians 4).
Pastors are the churches’ resident spiritual directors (see Eugene Peterson’s excellent writings on that subject), theologians (see Elton Trueblood), and prophets (Walter Brueggemann).
Featured Images by Attila Shia:
You can view his work on https://www.flickr.com/photos/77967821@N00/sets/
New Shoes Here I Come The link between depression and creativity is debated in many arenas. I do wonder how many Artists and those who operate mostly from the right side of the brain struggle with this and to what level. I truly believe that depression is more common than we think. Artists feel deeply and that is what makes their art so profound and moving. I’ve posted an article about the link between depression and creativity written by Shelley Carson.
Depression, Creativity, and a New Pair of Shoes
By Shelley H. Carson, Ph.D. on July 30, 2008 – 2:05pm in Life as Art.
“Well, I guess now all I have to do is get depressed and my work will improve.”
Since the time of Aristotle, creativity and the arts has been linked to melancholia…but depression itself doesn’t necessarily enhance creativity. Quite the opposite: most poets, artists, and composers have reported over the years that they are decidedly unable to work during episodes of severe depression. In fact, many have found their inability to create while depressed to be an impetus for ending it all. Virginia Woolf, for example, unable to write during the onset of a depressive episode, filled her pockets with stones and submerged herself in the River Ouse.
So if depression inhibits creativity, why the long-standing recognition of a connection between the two?
Here are four suggested theories: First, some artists and writers admit to engaging in their craft as a kind of auto-therapy for depression (a more healthy coping mechanism than booze but lots of artists and writers use that, too!). So depression (or the effort to avoid depression) may provide an incentive to do creative work that wards off melancholia.
A second theory is that the experience of depression may provide subject matter for artistic creations: Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream and Emily Dickinson’s “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” are just a couple of examples. A third theory, one held by many Romantic-era luminaries, is that one cannot truly comprehend the human condition (or convey it meaningfully in creative work) unless he or she has experienced the highest emotional highs and the lowest lows. Thus, depression provides the existential angst from which great art arises.
Finally, recent research on mood disorders and patterns of creativity suggests that it may not depression itself but recovery from depression that inspires creative work. Kay Redfield Jamison found that periods of creative productivity occur when individuals are either transitioning out of a depressive episode or are transitioning from normal mood into a manic or hypomanic episode.
In other words, creative productivity is linked to upward changes in mood. This dovetails nicely with work done by Alice Isen’s group at Cornell which found that people scored higher on creativity measures after a positive mood induction in the lab. Positive mood was induced by giving study participants a small, unexpected gift.
Okay, so maybe my artist friend doesn’t need to get depressed to improve her work; maybe all she needs is an unexpected gift (a manicure? a new pair of shoes? an unexpected snuggle from her four-year-old?). The point is, perhaps an upward change in mood can mimic recovery from depression and increase creative thinking.
If you’re currently suffering from creative block, try the “unexpected gift” strategy. You could either arrange for someone to surprise you with a small unexpected gift…or you could find a small, unexpected gift on your own (a flower growing in a crack in the sidewalk, a full moon rising over the trees, or the taste of a ripe strawberry – anything that inspires unexpected joy.) By keeping your senses open to unexpected pleasures, you may be able to get your creative juices flowing.
As an artist who suffers from depression I can relate to a few things in this article.
Firstly if my depression is especially deep I find it hard to get out of bed let alone do any creative work so in that regard depression does not help my creativity.
However, mild depression along with my introverted personality mean that I enjoy great periods of time in silence and solitude. When I am in this space, then I am the most active creatively. I am able to go into a cocoon where time has no value and am able to focus exclusively on what I am working on. I find intrusion or interruptions extremely annoying. This could include eating or answering the phone. In this regard I wonder if my depression or introverted nature help the intensity of the creative process. When I am in this space I find great joy in observation and not speaking. I will wander the streets taking in the sights or observe people in cafe’s or busy places. I like to drive into the inner city and look at historic architecture or to walk along secluded beaches. This refuels me and inspires me.
I am really interested to hear your thoughts on this topic and how this relates to you. Love Lisa
References: Ashby, F.G., Isen, A.M., & Turken, U. (1999). A neuropsychological theory of positive affect and its influence on cognition. Psychological Review, 106(3), 529-550. Jamison, K. (1989). Mood disorders and patterns of creativity in British writers and artists. Psychiatry, 52: 125-134.
Pastoral Survival Guide: Part 1 by Rowland Croucher
Introduction: Pastoral Challenges Today
1. Relationship with God
3. Mentors and Networks
4. Leadership and Interpersonal Skills
5. Home and Marriage
6. Stress Management
8. The ‘Vision Thing’
9. Professional Growth
10. Institutions and Creativity
REVEREND JOE’S STORY
Reverend Joe was a boilermaker in a factory, but he had a gift with words. One of his elders said he should be a preacher, so he went to Bible College, and served a term as a cross-cultural missionary with an interdenominational organisation. His ministry in Papua New Guinea was ‘ordinary’ according to the mission-people, and his wife developed some health problems. The doctors suggested that a tropical climate would not be good for her, so the Mission Society asked him to do some ‘deputation’ – which he did very well. He had only three talks to offer, but that’s all he needed as he journeyed around Australia, preaching in evangelical churches every Sunday. The General Superintendent of one of the Baptist Unions heard him speak, and was impressed.
When Joe intimated that he was thinking about entering pastoral ministry, the G.S. said ‘I think we can find a place for you’ and Joe began the process of theological training with a view to ordination. He struggled to pass his exams, but eventually made it. He then served two rural churches, but both pastorates ended badly. In the first, he ‘fronted’ a couple of the powerful people, and they virtually drove him out. A second pastorate finished abruptly after a couple of years when he had a breakdown. There was no farewell from either church. When he felt a little better, he asked to be put on the Baptist Union ‘list’ for another pastorate. The meetings of the ‘settlement committee’ came and went and Joe’s name would come up each time. But there wasn’t a ‘suitable’ church. (One of the members of that committee said to me, ‘We have to be efficient, because there’s always a lot of business each month. But these names. they’re people! This is their vocation, their livelihood, we’re talking about. We don’t pray for them, or even meet some of them. They’re mostly just names. I feel very uneasy about the whole process.’)
I met Joe when I preached at the Baptist church he attended. We made a time to talk – at the local McDonald’s. He got there early and was waiting for me, with a cup of coffee. (I learned later he found a used styrofoam cup, and asked for a ‘refill’, as he couldn’t admit to me that he was penniless). His wife was supporting them both with some ‘agency nursing’, but her health was still not good, and she could only do about two shifts a week. After mortgage payments, and other bills, they had about $50 a week for food. He couldn’t find a job – and his old trade wasn’t a possibility any more.
He told me, in an hour-and-a-half, the ‘headlines’ of his story. He had a brutal, alcoholic father, and a mother who suffered ‘nervous breakdowns’ regularly. His childhood was unhappy, and he was a lonely kid. School was always a bad experience, and he left at 15 to work in a factory. A Christian work-mate befriended him, took him to an evangelistic meeting, ‘and I was gloriously saved’. His life from then on was focussed on serving God and winning others to Christ.
After a while, I asked him to give me a rough assessment of his missionary and ministry careers. He did some things well, he said, but he couldn’t cope with people who ‘crossed’ him – either by making comments about his beliefs/ preaching, or by challenging his leadership. ‘I got into trouble regularly because I would stand up to people. That’s the only way I survived as a kid. They’re not going to squash me. But I think I made a lot of enemies each place I served.’
We then talked about ‘where to from here’. I summarised John Mark Ministries ‘ research into ex-pastors like him – and me. There are about 41 responses to the question ‘Why did you leave parish/ pastoral ministry?’ Most leave in a context of conflict – with the powerful people in the church or denomination. But underneath all this there’s always a story of ‘unfinished family-of-origin’ business. His story was not unusual – indeed he’s a classic!
He told me he felt ‘the Union’ had washed its hands of him. He was in the ‘dead wood’ category that institutional people talk about. ‘The G.S. who encouraged me to enter ministry has gone, and no one there now knows me.’ The Baptist Union had recently developed a system to encourage the personal and professional growth of its pastors, who now are required to renew their accreditation regularly. Joe felt threatened by all this. ‘I’m not a reader, ‘ he said. ‘But I still think I could be useful somewhere in the church.’
INTRODUCTION: PASTORAL CHALLENGES TODAY
Now, what should happen to Joe if he’s to realise his potential and make it back into pastoral ministry again? Is he a hopeless case? I personally don’t think so, but it will certainly be uphill. Non-tertiary-educated/ Bible college trained ex-missionaries have generally had problems adjusting again. The society they left has moved dramatically in their absence. They often lack the vocational skills to compete on their return and the sending mission societies have often failed to provide for their retraining and economic wellbeing after ‘years of sacrificial service’. Even pastors that never went overseas, but were trained in the 1950s/ 1960s, are often similarly disadvantaged.
I meet quite a few pastors still leading churches because they can’t think of any alternatives. They’re burned out, struggling on, and their churches are suffering.
Then, too, there’s another category: pastors who feel they’re ‘mediocre’ in terms of effective leadership, but who do a faithful job. until some powerful people in the church insist on their ‘getting their act together better’. Then there’s trouble.
Another group is committed to ‘church growth’, but their people often feel they’re pawns in a triumphalistic chess-game. ‘Our pastor doesn’t listen: he suffers from an edifice complex. We’re OK if we bring friends to church, but not if we struggle.’
Some older pastors feel they’ve passed their ‘use by’ date. One told me: ‘I don’t understand all this post-modern stuff. I seem to be preaching about things the educated young people aren’t interested in. A university student said to me: “You preach at us. Our teachers encourage us to come to our own conclusions.”‘
Today it’s both easier and harder to be a pastor. Easier, because we have more resources to help us – like the World Wide Web for sermon-material (ever used the search-engine Google as a concordance?), more support-groups to encourage and pray for us, better access to the world’s practical theology experts, and a higher standard of living, on average, than pastors have ever enjoyed.
But it’s also harder. Many of us can identify with the apostle Paul who said, ‘Who is equal to such a task?’, about his own call to pastoral ministry. These days the expectations of our people are higher – and more likely to be expressed vigorously. Up-front leaders and speakers compete with dynamic personalities on television. There are more ‘religious’ people not attending churches (in the West) than ever before in history. Our people are likely to be better-educated – and differently-educated than we are. ‘One size fits all’ doesn’t work any more: people are more mobile, and brand-loyalty doesn’t work for Generation X’ers (those born since 1965) – or even Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).
The role of the clergy is by not as clear as it was. Nor is there clear public affirmation of their role in many instances. Most people see no need for religious professionals. And there’s a lack of confidence in institutions. Why waste precious time propping up ineffective institutions? Indeed, the very way in which people are approaching spirituality is that community involvement may be helpful at some points in time, but is certainly secondary to the individual spiritual journey.
In the past 40 years I’ve preached in about 700 churches in Australia, and they’re becoming more varied each decade. The single most common question in our ‘Marks of a Healthy Church’ seminars: how can we cater for old and young with their different tastes in one worship service, particularly in smaller churches? This centres particularly on the issue of modern vs. older music. But then, we’ve argued about music before: some churches in 17th century England and Scotland forbade all singing, others said we should only sing Psalms. When new hymn-books are produced, there are mixed reactions. (In 1691 when the first Baptist hymn book appeared, many Baptists refused to use it!).
Back to TV: most church-attenders have watched almost 20 hours of television the previous week. Not only is the medium the message, but if communication in church isn’t dynamic/interesting (and cognisant of an assumed 45-second attention span), the music excellent, and the themes life-related, people will go elsewhere – even back to the TV. (See Tony Campolo, 1995, chapter 4 ‘The Television Challenge’ for one of the few writers-about-churches to underline the significance of television for churches).
Baby Boomers and GenX’ers have grown up with television – that’s why they’re less-than-committed to a particular church/denomination. They’re part of a consumer culture in which choices/freedoms dominate their lifestyle.
They want ‘value for money/time’ and won’t hang around a church that’s boring, irrelevant to their questions, or stuck where it was. (Tradition is a good servant, but a very bad master).
Baby Boomers still have a disproportionate influence over our entire society, consuming (in the U.S.) 51% of all the goods and services and comprising 81% of journalists. Again, they don’t share at all the ‘brand loyalty’ of their parents: indeed they scoff at it – hence the decline of denominations that have ‘expected loyalty but neglected needs’. Baby Boomers and GenX’ers see the church they’re in as a ‘way-station’ for their ongoing spiritual journey rather than the final destination. (This is partly because they’re open to upward job mobility, which may require changing location). They’re more likely to be loyal to a pastor than to a church or denomination. They’re also more tolerant of change, and more comfortable with diversity and ambiguity.
GenX’ers got the best of everything: they’ve never had to wait for the good things of life, so don’t understand ‘deferred gratification’. They listen to music privately, and grew up in the first generation that devalued children as having less social and economic value. They finish their education later, marry later, have kids later and enter the job market later (hence the term ‘the postponed generation’). They’ve been even more influenced by television than have the Baby Boomers: but their concern for global issues often tends to be unfocussed, even shallow. They face an almost overwhelming array of options, and tend to be indecisive. Said one: ‘We search for a goal, and once it’s attained, we realise it has moved farther away’.
So an important question at this point is: should we surrender to the ‘I/me/myself’ selfishness of the consumer culture? Two excellent books on this are Philip Yancey’s Church: Why Bother? and Eugene Peterson’s The Wisdom of Each Other: A Conversation Between Spiritual Friends. The point these two books make: ‘church is essentially in rebellion against selfishness and is committed to diversity’.
Another contemporary issue: most Christians believe that a society which loses its commitment to certain core moral values, where most ‘do what is right in their own eyes’ is ‘on the skids’. Post-modernism rejects absolute ways of speaking of truth. Post-modernism, as the clich puts it, is essentially a rejection of ‘meta-narratives’. So religion is pushed out of the public arena into the private domain and such relativism can have disastrous consequences. Christians believe that to claim a morality which is purely self-referential is to claim a freedom which ends up as being no freedom at all. If there is no point of reference beyond ourselves, then reason, justice and law become exploitable by the powerful and the influential, and the weak have nothing left to appeal to. If we have no word for sin we shall soon find we have no words left to describe responsibility. As the ancient Roman adage puts it: ‘What are laws without morals?’
An Indian pastor was excited he was about his up-coming marriage. A Western missionary asked a few questions about the bride-to-be and it soon became evident that the young fellow had not yet even met the woman to whom he was betrothed. It was an arranged marriage. With as much cultural sensitivity as possible, the missionary asked how did they know if they loved each other? The Indian pastor’s response: ‘We will learn to love each other.’
The Church, whether we like it or not, is like an arranged marriage! We don’t determine who is or is not part of the Church, God does. We won’t get on with everyone. In one sense, when we give our lives to Jesus, we actually don’t have any choice in the matter, for we are called to learn to love even those we don’t get on with.
Back to pastors: please note that we are not here judging the effectiveness of a pastor’s work simply in terms of cleverness or measurable success. I know some faithful ‘Jeremiahs’ whose congregations have dwindled; there were often factors at work beyond their control. Generally, however, well-led and healthy churches grow, spiritually and numerically. There’s a climate of love and expectancy and competence and relevance in them which encourages people to come back again!
Over the next weeks we will look at the characteristics of pastors, women and men, who ‘make the distance’.
Featured Images by Attila Shia, you can view his amazing work on: https://www.flickr.com/photos/77967821@N00/sets/
Cathy Mandile will be leading us through an exercise in Mindfulness today. Cathy is a passionate advocate of people’s rights to receive support, hope and compassion through the darkest times in their lives. She is a professional counsellor currently working in the public mental health sector and has cared for many people with dual diagnoses of mental illness and substance abuse. Cathy is has been married for 31 years and has three adult children.
How many of us are stressed out?
Or maybe even experiencing intense anger, sadness, anxiety or fear? How about finding it hard to regulate our emotions at home, at work, in the supermarket or driving?? Tick!
We all can experience these at some stage in our lives.
Mindfulness simply means to choose and learn to control our focus of attention to the present moment without judgement. It does not conflict with any beliefs or traditions, whether religious, cultural or scientific.
It simply is a practical way to notice thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells– anything we might not normally notice. Mindfulness skills help us to focus our attention when we are overwhelmed by strong emotions. It can help with how we cope with everyday life or deal with tough times, and there are great benefits for our physical and mental health. Mindfulness can help us choose how we want to ‘respond’, rather than ‘impulsively react’ to situations.
We spend so much time thinking over stuff that has happened in the past, or worrying about things that may happen in the future, that often we actually forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment. Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens. When we’re mindful, it:
- helps clear our head
- helps us be more aware of our self, our body and the environment
- slows down our thoughts
- slows down our nervous system
- helps us to concentrate
- to relax
- can help us cope with stress.
- help manage depression and/or anxiety
- help us to be less angry or moody
- improve memory
- help us learn more easily
- help us to solve problems more easily
- make us happier
- help us to be more emotionally stable
- improve our breathing
- reduce our heart rate
- improve our circulation
- improve our immunity
- help us to cope with pain and
- helps to improve sleep.
How do we exercise mindfulness? The primary focus in Mindfulness is the breathing. However, the primary goal is a calm, non judging awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them. This creates calmness and acceptance. Mindful breathing:
- Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your spine reasonably straight.
- Direct your attention to your breathing.
- When thoughts, emotions, physical feelings or external sounds occur, simply accept them, giving them the space to come and go without judging or getting involved with them.
- When you notice that your attention has drifted off and is becoming caught up in thoughts or feelings, simply note that the attention has drifted and then gently bring the focus back to you breathing.
Colour breathing: This is one of my favourites. From these colours below, choose the colour relating to what you feel you need. You can name the colours anything you want but these are some examples.
Yellow – Peace.
Orange – Courage, Endurance and Strength.
Green – Hope.
Crimson – The presence of God, Love.
Brown – Humility.
Blue – Grace.
Purple – Forgiveness.
- Make yourself comfortable whether sitting or lying down.
- Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breathing.
- Anytime that other thoughts, images, sounds or sensations come to mind, just notice them and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing and your colour.
- Now visualise your colour. See it in front of you, over you, surrounding you. As you slowly breathe, become aware of breathing in your colour, into your nose, your throat, your chest and abdomen. Imagine now that colour spreading out within you and notice the effects that it has.
- Notice the sensations in your body as this colour flows into and spreads throughout your body.
- Anytime that your attention wanders, simply notice that it’s wandered, then gently bring your focus back to your colour.
- Whenever you are ready. Start to bring your attention back to the here and now, where you are. Open your eyes and look around noticing what you see and what you hear. Take a couple of breaths and notice the pleasing sensations that accompany this relaxing exercise.
You notice each gain of sand pass through your fingers.
You could smell the seaweed as it was washed up on the shore. Then, you looked at the beautiful sunset, the colour of the sky, noticing the clouds and how they seemed to shroud the sun as it went down.
You watched the waves come towards you noticing they get lost in the sand. You also felt the wind on your face and breathed in the coolness noticing your lungs being rejuvenated.
You may have thanked God for His creation and His marvellous works. You are relaxed and enjoying the present moment. Taking in deep wells of peace with each breath. Guess what …you just did an exercise in mindfulness. Using mindfulness to cope with negative experiences (thoughts, feelings, events). Examples of negative thoughts: I am hopeless; This is too hard; I am a failure; I need a hit. As we become more practiced at using mindfulness for breathing, body sensations and routine daily activities, we can then learn to be mindful of our thoughts and feelings, to become observers, and then more accepting of them. This results in less distressing feelings and increases our ability to enjoy our lives.
With mindfulness, even the most disturbing sensations, feelings, thoughts and experiences, can be viewed from a wider perspective as passing events in the mind, rather than as ‘us’, or as being necessarily true. ( Brantley 2003).
As we gain confidence in using mindfulness, we can use it even in times of intense distress, by becoming mindful of the actual experience as an observer, using mindful breathing and focussing our attention on the breathing, listening to the distressing negative thoughts mindfully, recognising them as mere thoughts, breathing with them, allowing them to happen without believing them or arguing with them.
Watch them lose their power as they fall away. If thoughts are too strong or loud, then we can move our attention to our breathing, or to sounds around us. Mindfulness takes practice, practice, practice.
Be creative with it!! Enjoy every moment you have, breathe and be thankful.
You will notice the difference!!!! Cathy….