Saturday, December 12, 2015

Seminary 2: Domains of Ministry

Last Saturday, I gave preface to a new long term series I'm calling, "Seminary in a Nutshell." Today I want to start the first section of the series, "The Pastor and Context." As a first post in that section, this post is on the Domains of Ministry.
1. You can survey the curricula of seminaries everywhere. You can do a massive survey of a wide variety of people in various roles in a denomination. After you have collected all that data and grouped it, you will find that the domains of a minister in relation to ministry reduce to these basic areas:
  • the person of the pastor
  • the context of ministry
  • central Christian traditions (Bible, theology, church history)
  • worship
  • mission
  • proclamation
  • discipleship and spiritual formation
  • relationships
  • leadership
All the functions of a minister and a ministry fall into one of these areas.

2. The first section of this series will deal with the first two, the person and context of the pastor. The person of the pastor includes matters like the pastor's call to ministry (including who can be called), the personality and spiritual gifts of the pastor, and the pastor's priorities (including matters of family, margin, sabbath, retreat, personal spiritual formation).

The context of ministry includes the question of culture and contextualization. How does context affect both the incarnation and communication of truth? There are social contexts, ethnic and racial contexts, economic contexts, generational contexts, national contexts.

There are also historical contexts relating to the most immediate Christian traditions in which we find ourselves. We are in denominations. We are part of contemporary church history. These "traditional" contexts shape our story, our symbols, our practices, our answers to basic questions. [1] Because I am writing primarily for North Americans, I'll spend some time on Christian traditions in America.

3. The second section of this series will overview what I am calling "central Christian traditions." These are the Bible, theology, and church history. We will start with the church history of the first five centuries, giving a developmental sense both of the New Testament and basic Christian theology. Then we will go into more depth on basic theology from a biblical perspective, drawing on the Old and New Testaments. Finally, this section will finish with a tour through the last 1500 years.

4. The last six sections will deal with the key domains of ministerial practice. Worship is first because God is the center of all things. Mission comes second because it deals with the charge God has given to his ministerial ambassadors. Proclamation is key to the mission, for God has chosen through the foolishness of preaching to bring the alienated into the people of God.

Within the church, the people of God must be discipled, which is really the heart of the Great Commission. The spiritual formation of both individual and corporate church falls into this category. Next, we will look at relationships within the church and in general. What are healthy relationships? How can we counsel to form healthy individuals in the church?

The final section is then leadership. How does the minister coordinate and manage all of the functions mentioned above? How can a minister facilitate vision? What about the financial and organizational dimensions of ministry?

This is our quest. Eight sections, eight books of a sort.

[1] Here drawing from the key elements of worldview as N. T. Wright has set them out in The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992).

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