I decided last week that I am going to start a second blog so that I can share my ideas relating to faith, Christianity, and my own journey of spiritual development in a separate place– connected but different than this blog. There are a diverse array of things I want to write and blog about, and I have found that as my blog readership has increased, I have found myself at times unsure if I should be sharing in this space about my Christian faith. I have actually not received any negative feedback (and this is not really an invitation for any) as a result of postings to my “Christian” blog category— but I intuit that it might be best for me to put these ideas in a forum separate and distinct from “Moving at the Speed of Creativity.” If I do this (and I shall soon) I expect I’ll feel more free to post ideas like this, and perhaps create a forum with different readership dynamics due to the changed focus.

I plan to continue blogging here, but just not on themes which are exclusively or even predominantly faith and Christian oriented. With that said, I want to reflect on some ideas shared this past Sunday that related to “provoking imagination.” I haven’t setup the new blog yet, so this is my only place to record these ideas– and I want to record and reflect on them while they are still fresh on my mind.

John Gruel is one of the associate pastors at our new church in Edmond, Oklahoma, and John both taught the Sunday school lesson and preached the sermon last weekend. HIs theme was “The History of Church Leadership,” focusing not exclusively on a single denomination but rather tracing the changes in church leadership over the centuries since Jesus’ life and death. John is working on his doctorate and is in his first year of study, and this topic is being addressed in one
of his courses. These are the four major eras of church leadership he shared and we discussed in Sunday School:

  • Apostolic era:
    1. Leadership in the church was based on a functional notion of gifts and abilities.
    2. People themselves reflected action in missional engagement
    3. Priests were first called “priests” about the year 200
    4. Priests “controlled the saving knowledge of the gospel”
    5. This established a primitive hierarchy in the church, later to be strengthened and formalized much more strongly
    6. Establishment of the priestly class “removed church leadership from ordinary existence” (There were two groups of people: the priests who had access to and interpreted God’s Word and will for the people, and the rest of the world: Who listened and obeyed– or at least were expected to fulfil these roles.)
  • Constantinian Era
    1. The power and status of priests were elevated and grew
    2. The administrative hierarchy of the church increased
    3. Celibacy was established as a further distinction between clergy and the laity
    4. The priest provided a “place where” people came to worship: to hear God’s word, confess, have the sacraments administered, etc.
    5. There was less sense of God’s people as “a people sent” to do God’s will
  • Reformation
    1. The role of the clergy shifted to more of a “pedagogue”
    2. This was a change in the role of clergy to be more in a teaching mode
    3. There was no real “material change” in the church’s understanding of “clergy”
    4. Clergy transitioned from “keepers of the sacraments” to “keepers of the Word”
    5. Academic requirements expected and required of clergy increased
    6. During and after this time, radical reformers (like the Anabaptists and Mennonites) tried to “recover a more apostolic and functional idea” of church leadership
  • Enlightenment
    1. The role of the clergy become professionalized
    2. This followed trends in the wider culture, especially in law and medicine
    3. Education for clergy become more formal and “scientific” (again following broader societal trends)
    4. In John Gruel’s view, during this time the idea and concept of the “priesthood of all believers” was further undermined by the requirements and procedures of formal ordination (people were even less likely to see themselves as God’s ordained ministers– as laity, commissioned to go out into the world and do the work of Christ)

    Other Trends

    1. Clergy as Counselors: from god-centered to human-centered understanding of reality, where primacy is/was placed on meeting human needs
    2. Clergy as Managers: geared toward efficiency, operating within an organizational, managerial paradigm. Church leaders seen as purveyors of spiritual goods and services.
    3. Clergy as Technicians or Specialists: Part of the broader cultural view (based largely on reason and a scientific mindset) that every problem has a potential technocratic solution. Techniques then, become the answer to fulfill church goals and its overall mission. The role of the pastor becomes more an overseer of specialized ministries. This is what we see in many mainline Protestant churches today.

    This was an excellent presentation and a great dialog, and there were many things that John shared I thought were worth writing down and remembering. (I am, in fact, typing from the handwritten notes I took on Sunday.)

    John noted that many people consider pastors in the Presbyterian tradition to be “ministers or keepers of the Word and sacrament.” He prefers, and this is in the Book of Order, to refer to pastors as “caretakers and stewards of the mysteries of God.” I like that language also.

    John also challenged us to think of the evolving, more appropriate role of the Pastor to be a “poet and a prophet” rather than a “technician or a specialist.” This was my favorite statement from the entire lesson: He said Pastors and other leaders in the church should strive to be “provokers of individual and corporate imaginations.” Implicit in this challenge is the idea that God’s will for our individual and corporate lives is wrapped within the imaginations of His people. Understanding that, the leader in the church should strive to promote dialog and conversations which inspire people to share the calling which God has placed upon their own hearts– to serve in a particular mission field, to respond to a specific need in the congregation or in the community, etc. This style of leadership is not top-down and technocratic: rather it is empowering of grass-roots ideas and visions. It is not leadership by committee, it is more leadership through dialog and cooperative response to the moving of God’s Holy Spirit. I really resonate with these ideas, and think they have broader applicability outside the possibly more narrowly defined sphere of “The Church.”

    John challenged us to recognize that in churches today, we have a more abiding need for prayer rather than agendas. We should all seek to understand God’s call in our own lives, and seek to live that out with the body of believers which is our local church.

    The last thought he left us with was also thought provoking. John described the 21st century environment in which we live as one of “rapid discontinuous change.” I like that description. We need to not only prepare ourselves and our families to survive and thrive in this environment of rapid discontinuous change– but also strive to help our teachers and our students in our schools do the same thing. The vocabulary we use in secular, public schools is likely to be different– but the human needs to which we should respond and address are the same in this rapidly changing, multi-task favoring, dynamical world of 2006.

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    On this day..

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    3 Responses to Provoking imaginations

    1. Jennifer W says:

      Sooo — Moving at the speed of Christianity??? I LOVE IT!!

      Stand firm, my friend. What you do is a good thing!!!!

      So so so proud of you!!!


    2. Jim Lerman says:

      Wesley, I truly value your insights about education and I think you are wise to create a separate blog regarding your faith.

    3. Beth says:

      Let me know when the new one is up so I can subcribe to that as well. Your insights “keep it real ” in the realms of academia and faith.

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