Ordination Questions, Part 10: Theology of Ministry Statement

Please see the introduction to Part 1 for the context of these questions…

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Theology of Ministry Statement: Please make a brief statement of your theology of ministry. It should be no more than 1/3 page, typed and single-spaced. Upon a positive BOM recommendation you will read this statement aloud at the upcoming Annual Conference clergy session.

 My theology of ministry begins with the notion that God is love.  Additionally, the model of Jesus becoming flesh and dwelling among us is the concrete expression of what it means to be a representative of God in the world. 

  • I believe that sometimes the bravest and most important thing a person can do is just show up. 

  • I believe that spiritual values are transferred best through relational environments and is often more about unlearning things than learning things.

  • I believe that it is more important to change what people care about than to change what they believe.

  • I believe that ministry is not giving people what they want, but rather it is about changing the wants themselves. 

  • I believe there is no growth without change, no change without loss, and no loss without pain.

  • I believe that the church does not have a social strategy; the church is a social strategy. 

  • I believe that Jesus meant to start a movement, not an institution. 

  • I believe my calling is about saving people not saving institutions. 

  • I believe that often the greatest enemy to the movement of Jesus is Christianity. 

  • I believe that movements are living things and multiplication is what mature living things naturally do.

  • I believe that those who change the course of history are usually those who pose a new set of questions rather than those who offer solutions.

  • I believe that “us” and “them” are illusions.  There is no “them.” 

  • I believe that a pastor is as old as their cynicism and as young as their dreams.

  • I believe that the greatest temptation of a pastor is to be a hireling rather than a leader.  

  • I believe that the Beatles got it wrong. Love isn’t all we need.  Love is all there is. 

**I am indebted to many people who have shaped my ideas and been “mentors from afar”: Peter Drucker, GK Chesterton, Frederick Buechner, Dave Browning, Stanley Hauerwas, Erwin McManus, Eugene Peterson, Tony Campolo, Gustavo Gutierrez, Patrick Lenceoni, William Willimon, and Brian McLaren. 

Dana Hicks
Ordination Questions, Part 9: The Ordination Agreement

Please see the introduction to Part 1 for the context of these questions…

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o) You have agreed as a candidate for the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world and the most effective witness of the gospel, and in consideration of their influence as ministers, to make a complete dedication of yourself to the highest ideals of the Christian life, and to this end agree to exercise responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, integrity in all personal relationships, fidelity in marriage and celibacy in singleness, social responsibility, and growth in grace and the knowledge and love of God. What is your understanding of this agreement?

            Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God more than any other subject.  He spoke of it with a sense of urgency: it is already among us in embryonic form and growing all the time.  It is like a mustard seed or a bit of yeast in dough.  Jesus indicated that when we begin to grasp how amazing this coming Kingdom is, we will sacrifice anything to be a part of it.  It is like a man who sold everything he had to buy a plot of land with buried treasure, someone who sacrificed everything for an amazing pearl.

            Part of what he taught us to pray was, “…your Kingdom come, your will be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Jesus’ plan was that He would form from His followers a community that would model for the world a new way of life in which the Kingdom of God would begin to break into our world.

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            In order for his Kingdom to come here on Earth, it first needs to break into my world: exercising responsible self-control by personal habits conducive to bodily health, mental and emotional maturity, integrity in all personal relationships, fidelity in marriage, social responsibility, and growth in grace and the knowledge and love of God. This also includes: bad habits, gossip, worry, self-promotion, judgmentalism, avoiding confrontation, bending the truth to get out of trouble, holding a grudge because it feels good, impure thoughts, impure actions, getting cold and withdrawing from others, and getting stubborn or passive/aggressive.

            Once the Kingdom has broken into my world, I can be a part of a healthy community that can embody the Kingdom of God here on Earth (where the truth of the Gospel becomes credible). My inability to deal with the shortcoming of my own life short-circuits the larger mission of Jesus. 

            Therefore, my understanding of this agreement is that I am not an “end user” of this commitment.  I agree to dedicate my life to these ideals for the sake of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. 

Dana Hicks
Ordination Questions, Part 8: Inclusive Ministry

Please see the introduction to Part 1 for the context of these questions…

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n) Describe your understanding of an inclusive church and ministry.

            Western thought tends be dualistic.  We often think in polemics: matter vs. spirit, body vs. mind, conservative vs. liberal, etc.  The problem with dualistic thinking is that it tends to create us vs. them thinking. The first Century Christians also wrestled with dualistic thinking.  For them, the issues were: Jews vs. Gentiles, slave owners vs. slaves, and men vs. women.  Into this context, Paul write these revolutionary words to the church at Galatia: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). 

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            Therefore, as followers of Jesus, false polemics should not be part of our thinking.  There is no “them” – it’s all “us”.  We are all one in Christ Jesus.

            The world “religion” often has a bad connotation in our world. It often conjures up people who are narrow minded and bigoted in some way.   But the word “religion” comes from the words: “Lig” – (which we get our English word “ligament”) which means to connect, to join together, to unite, to bring everything together in wholeness, and the word “re” – which means “again.”  So, one could say that good religion is about connecting us together again. Or the purpose of religion was supposed to be to connect us together with God, with creation, with other people. Religion, in its purest sense, is about finding again that vital connection that makes us whole.

            Of course, sometimes religion instead:  promotes conflict and selfishness rather than generosity and love, prioritizes one’s own personal salvation over the well-being of others, and teaches people to fear, dehumanize, and judge others. And when it does that, it is straining or tearing the ligaments of God’s creation rather than strengthening them.  It is “de-ligimenting” instead of “re-ligimenting” us. 

            In practical terms, an inclusive church and ministry concerns itself with the relationship between a dominant group and a minority group.  The following grid shows the continuum of inclusion in a church or ministry:**

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**2 —I am indebted to Kristina Gonzalez in the PNW Innovation and Vitality team for her thoughts on this issue.  Also, my friend Jeremy Smith and his blog www.hackingchristianity.net.

Dana Hicks
Ordination Questions, Part 7: Ecclesiology

Please see the introduction to Part 1 for the context of these questions…

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i) Describe the nature and mission of the Church. What are its primary tasks today?

            The Greek word that we translate as “church” is Ecclesia. It was a term that Jesus and writers of the New Testament used for “church” but it wasn’t invented by them.  It was a word that was around long before Jesus, but the followers of Jesus stole it and used it to describe a gathering of believers.  The original word wasn’t a gathering, but a particular kind of meeting in the Ancient Near East.  When a village got large enough to have livestock and children to corral and keep safe, they would build fences.  The entrance to the village was called the “city gate”

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             In the Ancient Near East, men* in their 40’s would semi-retire and hand over the business to their sons. Retired men in the Ancient Near East would sit at the city gate, drink, eat, and talk.  They would debate and scratch their gray beards.  It was not idle talk or stupid jokes or gossip; they fulfilled a very important function in the village.  Whenever there was a conflict, an ethical dilemma, a struggle, or a challenge that they did not know how to meet, people would go to the city gate and say, “Fathers, there is a problem in the village.” Perhaps there was an argument: two sons fighting over an inheritance, a drought, or a land dispute.  The men at the city gate would not answer quickly, but reflect all day and muse with each other before giving a reply. 

            (Luke 12:13-21 is a good example of a situation in which someone comes to Jesus and this social dynamic of an “elder at the gate” is presumed on Jesus.)

            The word in the Ancient Near East (and is still used today in Palestine) that was used to described the elders at the gate was the ecclesia. Paul appropriates this word and uses it to describe what the followers of Jesus will be like. It is a better town that the followers of Jesus live in because of the presence of these wise, good, true, loving, and noble men and women. The followers of Jesus are a gift to a community to which they are a part.  The idea is that we would add wisdom, beauty, health, help, and honesty to the city. 

            Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jesus’ words this way -- “Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” (Matthew 5:13; The Message)

            The nature and the mission of the church is found in its relationship to its city. The name of the buildings in which we gather on Sunday are very poorly named. The church is not what happens on a Sunday in a particular location, but what the ecclesia does throughout the week across its city. 

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*—I recognize the obvious gender exclusiveness of this example.  I do not mean for the example to be prescriptive of what should be but merely descriptive of the reality of the social dynamics of the Ancient Near East. 

 

Dana Hicks