“A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world.” –John Le Carre
I wonder if you have ever given that much thought? I haven’t, until today. Most of my life in pastoral ministry has been spent behind a desk, behind a phone, in a class room, or behind a pulpit! However, there have been phenomenal times when I have been able to break free from that “elevated post”. There have been times when God has invited me to “come down” and be present with him. My problem, which I would guess is similar to yours, is that these times are entirely too few and too far between. What if we want to find a new trail of vitality? It just might be time to get away from the desk for a while and see what else might be possible. Who knows, you just might find a new approach that leads to vitality.
I wonder if you have ever considered that even more dangerous than a desk is our training as clergy in and of itself? That the lenses we have inherited can lead to a dangerous place to be? What do I mean? Let me flesh this out a bit. I have often said that Seminary is a 15th Century Education for a 21st Century world. Believe me that does not make me popular with the seminary faculty, regardless of which one I am speaking to. Let me go a bit further and hypothesize that the very nature of clergy training is detrimental to our ability to lead the church of Jesus Christ where it needs to go and be today. I know, by now you want string me up by my thumbs until I confess my heretical ideas. However, what if this is true? What if our very “formation” as pastoral leaders is detrimental to where Jesus is calling to go and to be?
Before you break out the implements of torture for this “heretic” let me flesh this out a bit. Go back to the history of the early church. Jesus comes, invites 12 uneducated young men to walk with him for three years. At the end of that, Jesus is crucified, and the 11 remaining disciples, and the other followers of Jesus Christ turn the world upside down, until AD 300. What happened then is the Emperor Constantine “legalizes” Christianity and then “co-opts” the power of the church and integrates it into existing Roman Culture. To be honest, I don’t believe Constantine was that smart or that cunning, it is just the nature of things to be subsumed into the existing culture models of the day. So what was once a vibrant multiplying movement, became dominated by hierarchy and power, but not the power of the Spirit. So much so that there is a legend that supposedly dates to the Middle Ages when a Pope surveying the wealth of the church is said to have remarked: “No longer does the church need to say, ‘Silver and gold, have I none.’” In response, a Monk is said to have replied, “Neither can she say, ‘Rise up and Walk.’” Apocryphal or not, the truth remains, the power displayed in the first 300 years of the church has been lost. So we have developed a theology to explain and contain that, but we have not regained the power that Jesus promised us in John 14:12–14, “12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Before this turns into a “rant” let me suggest an alternative. First of all, even the greatest preacher or theologian among us is not going to be able to turn this around on their own, nor will you or I. What I am talking about is a shift back to the era when the disciples were making disciples. After all, didn’t Jesus in the Great Commission send us forth to make disciples? Nowhere does it say anything about building churches! Let me suggest since you are reading this blog on the New Trails Website, go to the assessment pages and look for the “Disciple Self-Assessment” at the bottom of the page. Complete the assessment and you will get a report back with more information. Then I invite you to look into that ministry of discipleship making. You see I am beginning to believe that this is the missing link for the church today and in the past. We have delegated spirituality to the “elite” (Clergy) or the “professional holy” (Monks and Nuns) and exempted everyday believers from the call to go and make disciples. I wonder what would happen, if we as Pastors began to make it a priority to disciple a few people at a time, equipping them to go and make disciples? I wonder what would happen if we began to focus on a few at a time, rather and polishing a great sermon or a Bible Study? I wonder…. But then again, you know I am just a guy who loves to wander in the woods, so maybe, I am losing my edge? But I don’t think so. I am starting to believe that since I no longer spend my day behind a desk I am starting to see things more clearly! Maybe together we can help lead people to a new trail of vitality.