Monday, April 02, 2007

Have an Easter reflection by listening carefully to Eugene's advice for Ministry and Life

I have recently completely listening to all the teaching of Eugene Peterson that is in the Wycliffe library. This is an un-mined and seemingly unnoticed treasure that most don't know is there. It includes all the courses he has taught at Regent Vancouver over the last decade.

Some people dismiss Peterson because they don't like 'The Message' and assume it's author must be flakey and un-sound. They really don't know what they are talking about. I have had a tape in my car everywhere I have driven over the past two years, so in lots of different ways my constant and most consistent teacher at theological college has been Eugene. While doing this I have worked my way through most of his books which are worth seeking out (see sidebar). This is a man who lives 3000 miles away and who I will probably never meet,but he has so enriched my life and thinking that my second-hand words can't possibly do him justice.

Here are his concluding remarks in his course 'Ministry and Spirituality' and these are specifically directed at Pastors but they form a pretty reasonable rule of life for all who are trying to follow the way of Jesus. These are timely truths and I share them in the hope they may be a blessing to some and that there may be some things for you to dwell on and pray about as we all walk towards the cross this Holy Week.

How do we protect things that are worthwhile?

1. Ministry and spirituality are dialectical

Spirituality begins in weakness, ministry begins in strength. How do we keep them in touch with each other because that's the task?

2. Nobody cares whether you do ministry or not

It is a calling. You must protect and guard it. Nobody cares if you do ministry- all they care about is whether you do jobs and fulfill functions. Never forget this. The world's primary concern is function and productivity so be careful. God economy works differently.

3. We begin with affirmations

We have a gospel to proclaim so always begin with it. You cannot construct an ascesis with negatives. Our vocation is ministry and so our default stance is 'yes' and 'amen'. There are negatives but work out of the positives.

4. Ascesis

This is about intentionality. This is the way we maintain spirituality. Decide how you are going to do this.

5. The Lord's prayer

This is your prayer. Thy name, thy will, thy kingdom. Clear a space.

6. The ministry of saying no.

No is a freedom word. Become practiced in saying no.

7. Ascetical goals

Goal one: Watchfulness (perception and awareness)

Goal two: Reticence (staying out of the way of what God is doing or wants to do)

Key question:

"What can I not do that will keep me from getting in the way of what God is already doing".

The presuppostiion of ascesis is that God is already at work

8. Asetical dangers

(i) Pride
(ii) Technological power and control. i.e Competence
(iii) Denegration of the material or the bodily

9. Three tests to set against your ascetical premise

(i) Is this developing contempt or compassion for others?
(ii) Is this creating love or scorn for things?
(iii)Is this creating isolation or community in you?

10. Asceticism cultivates inadequacy

We are not in control. We don't know what to say. The context is the Trinity. Always be making room for the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

A medieval saying. "God rides the lame horse and writes straight with a crooked stick"

Eugene sums it all up with six more final things for ministry. Keep listening carefully.

1) We need help

The world is in a mess and you are part of the mess. You must feel a need for help of you are in trouble. We are sinners. Empirically, this can be tested. Just look around.

2) God helps you

He gave you his son. He helps you by serving you. We learn ministry by watching what God does. He works from the inside-out. He enters our condition as a child. God helps and the way he helps is as important to know as that he helps.

3) You help

Enter into what God is doing in Jesus

John 13

It's about feet washing

This is honoured work you do.

You do priviledged work

You, who need help and have been helped, are now put to work helping others.

You should do this calmly

You must transform this from a job into a vocation

4) You who help continue to need help

Evangelist’s need and evangelist. Teacher’s a teacher. Parents a parent.

Pray-ers need prayer

Seek out help

All is done in the context of worship in order to be renewed.

Worship is a deliberate re-entry into receptiveness

Worship is a sense of needy-ness

We are always beginning all over again.

No act of ministry becomes a skill that we carry out on our own.

Must never sees ourselves as competent

5) Most of the harm that is done in the world is done by helpers

Good intentions out of a context of God intentions turn us in to God’s or Goddesses

Two instances in past: Marx and Hilter

Marx was a prophet with a prophet’s mind

95% of what he wrote was true

Look what a mess he made of the world

Hitler had a passionate concern he was right

Third Reich would last 1000 years and would make the world better

They did not have evil intentions at the outset but then look at the harm

Rarely does anyone start out with evil intent.

It's worth remembering that we can do the same

6) Marks of an autheniticity in a Spirituality infused ministry

(i) You must be 'Unhurried yet urgent'

Time is holy. Hurry is a violation of the sanctity of time. We worry about those who violate the land but do we feel the same about time. Time is a part of the created order. Those who hurry and get us to hurry violate God’s gift. Does not however mean it is not urgent.

(ii) You must be 'Un-ambitious yet determined'

Must not impose our wills on God’s plan. It won’t help people.


(iii) You must be 'Unself-serving yet committed'

We’re holy. I am holy. I must honour the holiness in which I am consecrated. I can’t do with my life anything I want to. It’s God’s life he gave it to you.


The context is the Trinity.

Bless you all and have a very Happy Easter.

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