Challenging My Ministry Mind

As a pastor, you know the importance of continuing to learn and grow in your leadership. Our world is changing fast, and we need to challenge our thinking and keep it sharp. In this “Thrive in Five,” David Drury, pastor and chief of staff in the General Superintendent’s Office at The Wesleyan Church Headquarters, offers some ideas from authors that have challenged him this past year.

One of the best ways to counter my confirmation bias and tendency to groupthink is to read authors outside of the box I usually read from. Reading outside my typical pattern spurs my intellectual development and pastoral ministry. Few books in the last year have challenged me more than Different: Reimagining Holiness for a Wandering Church in a Watching World, by Mike Patz & Brian Sanders. Here are five quick challenges from the book:

  1. Not just a new heaven, but a new life. Patz and Sanders speak of the gospel in complete terms, saying “ … the way most gospel presentations go, all we needed was a substitutionary death. Yet the New Testament is obsessed with a gospel that goes all the way to a resurrection … We need a gospel that resurrects us to new life, not just the reassurance of a new heaven” (pp. 119-120). Does your understanding of the gospel include this life as well as the life to come?
  2. The egoless enterprise of movements. Patz and Sanders clarified what movements are in a way that left me thinking that if a movement isn’t yet to be, maybe the problem is me. They say, “movements are born in the hearts of selfless leaders; it is an egoless enterprise … Movements by definition cannot be led, and they cannot be planned.” They continue, noting that movements “ … defy control and a singular identity … if a movement happens it will happen because the leaders’ names are forgotten.” (p. 90). How aware are you of your own ego in your leadership? Are you willing to be involved in God’s movement even if no one will remember who you are?
  3. The kingdom is not a spectator sport. Patz and Sanders boldly claim that the “church in the West has never been less effective or less potent as salt and light in the world” (p. 94). They found part of the reason for this in the spectator-sport-design of our ministries, noting the words of Jesus in Luke 17, “The kingdom of God does not come by your careful observation … ” explaining further that that “kingdom will not — and cannot — come through spectating. The kingdom is not a spectacle and no matter how large a crowd we gather to watch, it will not come. Instead Jesus said, ‘It comes by force’” (p. 94). Is your leadership leading disciples toward being spectators or pro-active participants?
  4. Not all are evangelists, but all can be evangelistic. Patz and Sanders also make it clear that “while every believer is not an evangelist, every believer can be evangelistic” (p. 174). They make an effort to unpack what it means to “feed my sheep,” saying, “We tend to think ‘feed my sheep’ means preaching good sermons … but what if it refers to the great commission? What if it’s about making disciples? … The joy of the harvest is not reserved for the select minority of Christians with a talent in persuasion” (pp.172-174). Has thinking you need to be an “evangelist” kept you from being evangelistic?
  5. Did you receive the Spirit when you believed? Before they were done, the authors poked and prodded me about the Holy Spirit in convicting ways. They made the fascinating point that when Paul met the group of disciples in Ephesus, he promptly asked the question, “Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?” (p.141). Paul didn’t ask a myriad of other questions we might ask. He asked this question. What’s more, the early apostles “assumed people would be able to know if someone was ‘full of the Spirit’” (p. 143). From Acts it seems clear that “every believer has the Holy Spirit … however, we are not always filled with the Spirit” (pp. 144-145). Are you filled with the Spirit?

Part of the challenge from the book, Different, came from the fact that the authors’ take on “holiness theology” is from outside my own holiness tradition. In reading outside my usual scope, I found my ministry mind challenged anew. What are you reading that is challenging your ministry intellectually?

Here are three more examples of other thought leaders I’ve been able to read in just the last year that have challenged my ministry mind in that way:

  • Deep Roots and Wild Branches, by Michael Adam Beck. This book made me realize how fresh (and sometimes somewhat strange) expressions of church might be a way to revitalize dying churches.
  • The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, Willie James Jennings. This book challenged me to consider how much of my theology might be built on a history of racial oppression.
  • When Everything is Missions, by Denny Spitters and Matthew Ellison. This book helped me see how I can think like a missionary without claiming the title of “missionary” for myself in unhelpful ways.

Intellectual contributor: Dr. David Drury, chief of staff, The Wesleyan Church

Executive editor: Russ Gunsalus

Curator of content: Dave Higle