Redefining

The first of two posts on how we redefine ourselves as the Church, or as people within the Church.  

A friend shared this blog entry on Facebook recently.  The author makes an interesting point about how to enter into cross-cultural dialogue through a position that is accepted within the culture you are trying to enter.  For him, what this meant was de-identifying with the pastoral vocation in favor of vocations that would be understood by our post-modern culture.  
It’s an interesting point.  If one’s only role is outreach into the unchurched culture, then there’s a certain validity to this approach.  Of course, the pastoral vocation has many facets to it, and if you aren’t required/blessed to nurture, lead, encourage, strengthen, and otherwise disciple a congregation of existing Christians, not being a pastor is a good option.  
If you are, then no longer being a pastor may not be your best option.  
Of course, there are arguments against the author’s approach as well.  
The early Christian church was definitely a cultural anomaly, whether compared to the Jewish culture it came from or the Greco-Roman culture that permeated the Western world.  Despite this, the Church had pastors.  Pretty much always from what we can tell.  Their role as pastor doesn’t appear to have stopped the Church from growing like wildfire.
It’s also important to remember that while vocation is one possible bridge to another culture, there are other bridges as well.  I shoot pool every week with a bunch of guys that I don’t have other, more natural links to, culturally.  We differ in all sorts of ways – not just vocationally.  If I were to quit being a pastor, we wouldn’t cease to be very different in other ways.  In fact, because we’re so different in other ways, I suspect my vocation is less of an issue.  It’s one of many differences, not the only difference.  Pool is one of our main similarities, the point where we can stand and talk about other things as well.
Finally, in light of the historic history of the Church, it seems odd to call for the elimination of key identifying features of the Church.  What this ultimately leads to is not a crossover from an unchurched culture to a churched culture, but the dilution of church culture and it’s eventual disintegration in the other culture.  
The Church desperately needs leaders who are grounded in the Scriptural definitions of this role.  There will always be a need for missionaries and evangelists, and their tools and techniques may vary markedly from the tools and techniques of parish ministry.  But within the parish context, the pastor’s job ought to be helping people identify the ways that they do or can minister to others in their lives, because there are already bridges between them.  My job should be helping to equip the saints for the work the Holy Spirit would do in and through their lives.
Building bridges is crucial, without a doubt.  But if there’s no place left to build a bridge to, then there isn’t much point in it.  
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