Transforming Presence 4

20 May

Reimagining Ministry 19/05/12

Ephesians 4:1-16

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I then did a game with the congregation. First they had to pair up with someone. They then had to choose who was person “A” and who was person “B”. They then had to face away from each other and person “A” had to change 3 things about their physical appearance. They would then turn to face each other and person “B” had to try and guess what they had changed.

Taken from Transforming Presence

The final question is this: what sort of ministry do we need in order to become this sort of church?

There are many constraints upon us. 47% of our stipendiary clergy will retire in the next ten years. The numbers of those coming forward for ordination is worryingly low, the age profile worryingly high. The future health of the church requires us to have a good
number of people for whom the ordained ministry of the church will be their life’s work. The main reason we have asked deaneries to think about cutting stipendiary posts is not inability to pay for the clergy, but the ticking time bomb of clergy retirements.

However, asking people to do this in a five to seven year time scale has meant that many deaneries have seen themselves as a special case, and argued for cuts happening elsewhere; or have simply planned ahead on the basis of who is going to retire next. What we have not yet done is any serious re-imagining of what the ministry of the church might look like.

Ok, so what do we mean by “ministry”?

We have ministers, who have ministries. They can be political, or they can be clerical. And by clerical I mean someone like a vicar. And what does a vicar do? A vicar can marry people, bury people, baptise people, officiate at a communion service, sign official pieces of paper and so on. But is this what we mean by ministry? Is it just a vicar?

Ephesians chapter 4 puts it like this in verse 11:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers

So here we see that God has set up 5 particular jobs:
– apostle
Someone who sets up churches from scratch. E.g Peter
– prophet
Someone who speaks God’s truth into a situation. E.g John the Baptist.
– evangelist
Someone who tells others about Jesus. E.g. Paul
– pastor
Someone who leads and looks after a group of people, usually in a church. E.g. James the brother of Jesus
Someone who explains what the Bible tells us about how to live our lives. E.g. Jesus

The word “ministry” is from the Greek word diakoneo, meaning “to serve” or douleuo, meaning “to serve as a slave.” In the New Testament, ministry is seen as service to God and to other people in His name. Jesus provided the pattern for Christian ministry—He came, not to receive service, but to give it.

And when we look into the idea of what sort of things can we do to serve. What sort of things can be seen as a ministry?

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

So the list of spiritual gifts are:
– wisdom
– knowledge
– faith
– healing
– miracles
– prophecy
– distinguishing between spirits
– tongues
– interpretation

And we can add in things like prayer, administration and various other gifts or skills that are available and can be used in service.

Bishop Stephen gives some principles to guide us in our reimagining, the first being:

Taken from Transforming Presence

Ministry belongs to the whole people of God. Every person, because of their baptism, has a ministry. We must nurture an expectation that every Christian gives expression to this ministry in their daily life and in their participation in the life of the Church.

And why is this the case?
The Church of England does not have as many people going for ordination training and not enough money to fund posts everywhere. So there is a lot of work in churches that needs to be done and not enough people to cover everything. Sound familiar, Beryl?

There is, however, a problem in the way of people getting involved in serving and ministering in the community. Which brings us back to the exercise we did at the beginning. Who were the ones that changed something about their appearance? And how many of you have put everything back to the way it was before we did the exercise?

This is our biggest problem: change!

Q – How many Anglicans does it take to change a lightbulb?


Change is a 2 pronged attack, because it comes from above and below. From above we have the organisation that struggles to change. It likes the way things are, it runs things the way they have always been run and, because it’s such a large organisation, any changes take years, maybe even decades to happen. Just look at the situation with women vicars. In 1944 the first woman was ordained, in Hong Kong. In 1968 the Church of England declares that women can be made deacons, the first (and then only) rung on the ladder of ordination. In 1976 the Church of England says that it can find no theological problem with women being vicars. However it is not until 1992 that the Church of England finally makes it law, so it can happen. That’s nearly 50 years after the first one that it finally came to be legal in the UK.
So the organisation struggles with change.

However, the second prong of this attack on change comes from closer to home. Indeed it is us! How many of you returned everything back to the way it was before in our exercise?
How many people could cope if we had a sudden influx of more than 100 people who wanted to be baptised, all through an experience with Christian screamer music and the decision was made to change the worship style to encourage the newcomers?
How many people tend to sit in the same places when they come to church?
Generally we are disinclined to change. We like the status quo, the way things are around us. We feel safe, secure in our surroundings. If everything stays the same then we know how things are likely to happen so we feel like we have an element of control on things.

But God is not like that! God is a God of change! He didn’t say to Abram “You stay there and I’ll chat with you while you rest your feet in Ur”. He didn’t say to Moses “Tell them to shut up and I’ll tell them everything while they gaze at the sun setting behind the pyramids”. Jesus didn’t say to the first disciples “Can I sit down with you and have a chat”, he said “Come, follow me” and they left everything that they felt safe and secure with and followed Jesus.

So the questions we have to ask are these:
– What gifts do we have to offer as a ministry to the community?
– Can we cope with the change that ministry brings?
– Can we push to make change happen when others might try and stop the change happening?


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