Monday, August 24, 2009

Missional Call by Shafer Parker

According to Milfred Minatrea’s book Shaped by God’s Heart, “a missional church is a reproducing community of authentic disciples, being equipped as missionaries sent by God, to live and proclaim His Kingdom in their world.” And by way of interrupting myself, I say it is a useful thing to place such a key description so early in the book (p. 12). Believe it or not, I’ve searched other books on missional church life from cover to cover without ever finding a description of the very thing that supposedly consumes the author’s life.

But to get to my point, I will never forget the liberation and clarity I experienced regarding my personal call when I finally understood the missional purpose of the church. Frankly, for most of my adult life I often questioned why I was even in ministry, primarily because I never really felt that I fit any of the standard models for pastoral leadership.

To illustrate, consider with me the pastoral styles listed by Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Church (p. 125). I am not a natural evangelist, so every church I’ve served eventually discovers it will never lead the league in baptisms. And as a worship leader I tend to lapse into expositions of song lyrics when I should be getting on with praising God. I despise the idea of the pastor as chaplain. It seems to me that serious Christians should sicken at the thought of the pastorate reduced to religious window dressing for what are essentially family affairs.

Nor am I a reformer according to the social justice model described by Warren. For one thing, the gospel, not social justice is our primary message. For another thing, a lot of matters that are widely accepted as social justice issues have no connection at all with God’s Kingdom. And for yet a third thing, placards and petitions seem to me to be the very antithesis of the Spirit of our Lord who binds the bruised reed and gently blows the oxygen of His Spirit upon the smoldering wick (Mat. 12:18-19). I do not say there is no place for Christian activism, but is it really the place of the body of Christ to be found quarrelling and crying out in the streets? That seems more like a model provided by the labour movement than by our Lord.

Having rejected the other pastoral styles in Warren’s list I concluded I had to be either an instructor or an equipper. And I was mostly okay with that. Teaching and lecturing came naturally, and as a loyal subject of the Queen it was no bother to me to speak to crowned heads if it meant their owners were bent forward to take notes.

But as I pondered being an instructor or an equipper two questions still haunted me. Instructed for what? Equipped for what? In the end I was never satisfied merely regurgitating partially digested Biblical and theological facts for fat infantilized Christians.

Only when I understood the over-arching mission of the church did I also understand my purpose as a pastor. I was called to produce “authentic disciples who will live and proclaim Christ’s kingdom in their world.” Suddenly, the pastorate became the greatest opportunity for service a man could ever have, an all-consuming vocation not to be traded for anything less (and that includes everything else).

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