Tuesday, September 13, 2005

If Not Pragmatism, What else?

My previous quote has got me thinking. The quote is concerned with ministry on a university campus. My questions is, how much instruction have we actually recieved from God on doing ministry? By ministry I mean all that could be encompased by the word mission, that is, making disciples of everyone everywhere.

I think that to be a disciple is to be on the journey of growing to love God and love others more and more.[1] The activities that the disciple then does serve this end and include studying the scriptures, being prayed for, praying for and praying with others, telling others the goodnews about Jesus and the kingdom, looking out for peoples needs and seeing that they are taken care of.

Our official ministries (church and para-church if one is willing to make the distinction at a practical or theological level) are then to be shaped to this end, to facilitate the above. But as I asked, how much instruction have we actually recieved from God on doing this? What we see in the NT is a contextual outworking of God's purposes and will. It is an example of how to embody his purposes faithfully. I think our task is to do the same, taking these examples as suggestive guides and tests for whether our embodiment is indeed faithful to God's purposes. Hence context will play a large factor, and so this translates into being contextually pragmatic. The NT has nothing about mission on a university campus, thats our field of creative embodyment.

The real problem I think arises when we misunderstand our mission. For example, if we think our task is to convert as many people as we can, then we may seek to fill our churche services with as many people as we can so that they can hear the truth. We then shape our church services according to the best way to do this, we are pragmatic about it.

When it comes down to it, what God is seeking is transformed lives in community. The only way this is going to come about in a real and lasting way is through the power of the Spirit constantly working among us. That is pragmatic! We must always "soak" our lives and ministries in prayer, sincerely seeking the Spirit's guidence. But when the voice does not whisper, we can only go with what works.

[1] See Scot McKnight, "The Jesus Creed: what is the focus of spiritual life?" Christian Century vol.121 issue.18


Ben Myers said...

Yes, I think that when it comes to ministry there is a difference between "unprincipled pragmatism" and "principled pragmatism". For example, ministry strategies that are designed to strengthen the Christian community and to communicate the gospel clearly to others might be "pragmatic" but still "principled".

It definitely seems impossible to wait for some kind of revelation or divine guidance about all the practical details of ministry -- this path would simply lead to paralysis.

eddie said...

Thanks for that Ben. We could also have a number of principles by which we guide our strategies, in terms of both outcomes, and the way we go about it.

An exmple of the latter may be inclusion of all age groups and races. This would be premised on the vision of God's people as unified and inclusive. This could then be a check on our corporate gatherings. A possible implication being that we dont give them a too narrowly targeted focus audience which shapes the service resulting that in it being unnaccessible to those not specifically targeted?