Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Monastery of the Morning

As the emergent conversation continues, the role of the pastor continues to be an important focus. Many of the people joining in the conversation are pastors and elders, or are about to become one, and so they have a keen interest in understanding how this is all going to affect their actual daily life.

Some anxiousness may be imaginged as we rethink issues like the profession of the pastorate, the salary, and seem to move in a direction that favors less professionalism - and therefore affects the money.

I believe the professionalism of the pastorate is one of the key structures that is going to tumble and fall to the ground in a big thud of cleansing health for the body of Christ. However, I do not equate the loss of "professionalism" with the removal of a full-time salaried spiritual leader.

Take a deep breath all you radicals...I think we need to affirm the idea of a salaried leader - however with a whole new way of doing it and thinking about it, and that's what this post is about.

I wholeheartedly agree with the popular emergent idea of the pastor as a fellow journeyer who walks the walk of faith alongside his congregation - and not as a specially trained public speaker who has to maintain a role model status above and beyond his congregation. That part of professionalism is surely teetering and ready to tumble.

But what I am concerned with, is not what old stuff has to be gotten rid of, but rather what new stuff has to be created to build this new thing?

I think one of the core things that the emerging church is moving toward, is this idea of the gathering of a community, a communion, rather than a bunch of individuals all attending services. But how do we actually get there?

This really is a massive change, and it's not just going to happen by itself. There need to be tremendous changes in our expectations first, and then in our structures. What are those? How do we get them going? How will it all work out?

Well the first step, which may seem obvious, but cannot be assumed to be obvious, is the understanding that we are the church, the body of Christ - and any changes that happen, only happen because Christ is causing them to happen.

Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing. We must only change what we see Christ changing. In order to see Christ changing things, we must be in his presence.

The problem is that it is really hard to be in the presence of Christ and to see him doing things that you should be doing. That is a place he reserves for those who seek him with earnest. That is a place of daily prayer that is measured in hours and not minutes.

That is the only place that leaders of an emerging church can move out of - any other attempts to change the Church that Jesus loves and died for are labors done in vain, with no power and no end result other than division and confusion. I can't imagine attempting to change the church of my dear savior without being steadfast in his presence - not just for the big picture, but for all the daily little processes and adjustments as we progress.

And therefore, here is my main point: the pastor of the future is going to be mainly understood to be a man of prayer, spiritual formation and communion building. And that is in deep, deep contrast with the pastor of today who is understood to be a man of education, knowledge and leadership ability.

This is the core, "changing of expectations" that I believe must precede real change.

If we want communion to be our big new thing, we need communion creators, communion inspirers. Communion is a very real spiritual thing that can only be created by people who live in the presence of Christ. It is not a natural talent given at birth, it is not a skill obtained through training.

Community building does come natural to some people, and can be obtained through programs, but not communion building.

I believe that the new kind of churches we want, will require this new pastoral way, along with the fact that we are going to have to change the hearts of a lot of people and then do a lot of difficult work, and I don't think that can happen short of a movement of God. We all know for sure that movements of God only come in response to prayer.

No one man is going to create thousands of new churches that are emergent and actually create the reality we are now talking about. It is going to be first hundreds, and then thousands of pastors/spiritual leaders who are going to do it. And the only way they are going to do it is to move forward as they see Christ moving, and to work with his strength which he bestows upon the worker who takes the time to see the work Christ is doing.

And so now to the practical, how do we do this? how will it play out?

We need to begin to change our cultural expectation of what a pastor gets paid for. (ahaa, back to my original affirming of a paid pastoral leader). Does he get paid for being the pastor of the past (educated public speaker, CEO), or does he get paid to be the pastor of the future (person who has enough time to spend in prayer, so he can be a communion creator)?

I don't think this will be very hard because many people are tired of the status quo, and are going to be thrilled when their pastor announces that he is not going to take any appointments, or do any other work before noon, because that is his Monastery of the Morning where he prays, and reads, and meditates, and reflects and seeks to be in the presence of Christ.

People are thrilled and feel safe when they feel their pastor is really a man of God who seeks God. We don't have to even have a big conversation saying that we are going to change people's expectation of what they pay the pastor for - we just have to start doing it, and let the cultural expectations change naturally as the people see the fruit that is born.

In order to get this thing that we want - less individualism and more community, we must affect tremendous cultural change. By being in the presence of Christ all morning - which requires a salary - the pastor is so changed, so filled with the presence of Christ, that he becomes a fount of love pouring forth on the community. A communion creator.

This is how he leads. Others see it, feel it and also want to become closer to Christ, and as they do they are spiritually strengthened to do all the little things that create authentic community.

They are more patient with their brothers. They do not gossip against a person whom they love. They suddenly understand that they are un-reconciled with their friend and go and speak forgiveness and seek peace.

They are emboldened to take risks of love, because they know Jesus is right there with them to protect them if things don't go well. Authentic community/communion is created by a thousand little acts of love - of people thinking more of others than themselves - and that only happens to fleshly, sinful people, when Christ is in their midst. Christ only comes into the midst of a group of people that are seeking him seriously (and have a pastor leading them to do that).

This whole concept reaffirms the idea of the paid pastor, because it is necessary for men to work to meet their personal responsibilities, and we recognize that in contemporary America that life is so busy and difficult and expensive, that it is not realistic to imagine a man would have time for the Monastery of the Morning along with other leadership responsibilities if he also had to hold a full time job separately.

Can you imagine as a pastor how much better your life would be? No more running around doing everything and feeling bad because you hardly ever pray.

Up till now, you have been doing what your congregation as influenced by our culture has expected you to do. You joined in agreement with those expectations and scheduled your life accordingly. They live busy, harried lives, so you live a busy harried life.

I think the study and practice of monasticism, and other spiritual disciplines that are beginning to be understood again, are going to help lead us this way. There's lots of discussion of this on emergent blog's.

Some thoughts: It's not prayer only, there are a combination of things to do that keep you focused and awake during this time of spiritual formation. Mix it up. We are fleshly, and we need to get creative in how we overcome our flesh. It's also a time for reading books, and reflecting prayerfully as you read.

And not only spiritual books - you have to be reading general cultural stuff while you are in this spiritual zone with Christ, so he is informing your development along these lines.

Read, pray, take a walk, sing, pray some more, worship, intercede for your list of people, pray for your church, write all the ideas that come in this time - and through all these various ways and means - be in the presence of Christ so you can know him, and see what he's doing.

Then go and do the rest of the stuff you have to do - without you even knowing it his presence within you will begin to love others and create communion in the body of our Savior.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff,

I'm a friend of Tony. I was really pumped when he shared about meeting you. God bless you in your pursuit of Jesus. Keep the faith.

Mike King

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Jeff. I like the end where it says that God speaks to us in varied ways ... and that we have to mix it up and get creative.


Cindy said...

Since Tony J. linked to your blog, I'll bet I'm not the only one who'd like to hear how things are giong with you and your church. Can you give us an update?

Brother Douglas said...

Very 'spot on' commentary. I'm finding it particularly difficult birthing a vision for many of the very same reasons you've mentioned. I've decided to just concentrate on learning even more about the person and personality of Jesus (while needing more than I could ever accomplish in my own strength).., in prayerful expectation that he'll guide my future steps and actions.


Dream Builder said...
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Tom Naka said...
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+ simonas said...

Don and Anonymous - two spam comments here. "I'm definitely going to bookmark you!" :-/ Makes me sick...

Todd Hiestand said...

todd from The Well in Phila here. great spending the night with you last month in princeton..

anyways, i got eugene peterson's book, "working the angles" for chirstmas and this entry reminds me a lot of that book. i remember reading this entry earlier this year and have had it in the back of my mind since. between your post, some pastor friends of mine and peterson's book, i keep getting called back to this...being a pastor who is shaped by prayer.

what a challange to most of us who get so busy doing "stuff" that we forget the foundation of all this "stuff"

anyways, thanks...