Thursday, October 15, 2009
Connexional not individual Pioneers and ministers please
Good morning God,
We really do seem to have got ourselves in a mess again - trying to respond to what we think are the needs of the age, the call for pioneering ministry and mission leaders who can communicate to the diverse and disparate cultures which thrive outside of your Church..
It's as though we have forgotten who the author of the message is, and who it is that does the commissioning. The Church is so caught up with the need to break free of the things that some people think have shackled or limited our outreach, that it is in danger of throwing out the ministers with the message, in its desire to communicate culturally..
But communicate WHAT? Individualism reigns, personality triumphs, Marketing matters, entrepreneurialism succeeds?
Ok, Ok, I know - cheap rhetoric - but this is the knife edge balance in pioneer ministry - the skill set SEEMS to call for individual gifts and graces which give primacy to self-sufficiency, initiative, charisma... almost the Church's equivalent of the cult of the celebrity.
But this is the lie of our times. What the Church needs most is community, interdependence not independence, interrelated networks not individual nodes.
A modern Connexion.
Which means the Church has to play ITS part and NOT simply delegate all the risk and responsibility for responding to the call of Pioneer ministry on the would-be pioneer mission leader.
The timing of the VentureFX scheme this year means that all Presbyters who have applied who are also in stationing will be expected to withdraw from stationing BEFORE they know whether or not they have been accepted for stationing as a Pioneer Mission Leader.
The Presbyter has to take ALL the 'risk' of discernment.
The dilemma for the Presbyter who believes they may be called to this form of ministry is this:-
Should they stay in the stationing process and see whether or not God is calling them to serve another Church and Circuit, or should they withdraw, knowing that if they are not successful in their application for Pioneer Mission Leader status that they will have to reenter the process at a later stage - when there are fewer churches and circuits to discern a calling to, and which are less likely to be looking for the gifts and graces they believe they have to offer.
But WHY should the presbyter or deacon carry all the risk?
Why have we demanded such individualism for what we hope will grow the Connexion?
Surely - If the CHURCH is issuing the call for pioneer mission leaders, then it must accept a share in the calling process. If a presbyter or deacon is matched with a circuit, and is then successful in their application for Pioneer Ministry Status - why can't it be the CIRCUIT that has to renter the stationing process?
Wouldn't that be a better expression of Connexionalism, of the Priesthood of ALL believers?
It's time to call on all Chairs and members of the Stationing committee to refute the creeping cult of the individual and insist on a Connexional approach to pioneer ministry. BOTH processes - stationing and the Pioneer Mission Leader application process should be allowed to run in parallel.
Let the call be tested and discerned - by offering the CHOICE .
We don't need a new classification of ministry either lay or ordained - we need a new approach to discernment and stationing - of the priesthood of all believers!
We need a CONNEXIONAL approach to pioneer mission leaders which invites the circuits and districts to play their part in their selection and deployment, not least by sharing the risk, and perhaps thereby assisting in the testing of the call.
The alternative is simple - we say deacons and presbyters are not expected to be pioneer mission leaders..
Sadly this already seems to be the message we are sending out, loud and clear.
And when Conference asks once again (as it does with increasing rapidity) why so few younger people are considering ordained ministry, why so few are willing to respond to the call of God to serve in this way - who will have the courage to answer truthfully?