Free & Fit NYC - How Can the Church Respond to Change – A Research Study by Tim Cheux
Free & Fit NYC - How Can the Church Respond to Change – A Research Study by Tim Cheux
This Ethics paper is focused on how the Church, both non-denominational and Mainline Churches, can respond to change. Fundamentally, how is the Church training its leaders, through Education and Training, to face the current real-life issues that every ministry leader faces today. During the beginning of this semester, and whilst gathering primary research, the world has entered a global pandemic which now, in the May of 2020, has made it even harder for university and seminarian graduates entering the Ministry field.
As part of building primary research for this assignment the student interviewed four different Church leaders from four different denominations. This included Steve Sayer from the Harrington Park Community Church and the Reformed Church in the USA, Matt Lytakanen Mile Square Church in Hoboken and the Lutheran Missouri Church Synod, Abigail Oriowo from Seek Church (non-denominational Church) in New York City and Dave Haney from the Hoboken Evangelical Free (Non-Denominational) Church. In addition to these interviews further research was completed, as this is a fairly under researched topic. The author interviewed two Church leaders who are involved in front line Missionary work, Church Relationships and Global Parachurch Relations. This included Canon Chuck Robertson from the Episcopal Church and Chief Executive of Fresh Expressions Christ Backert.
In order to establish a clear thesis for this paper, the title, and research has been changing all the time. It was not until final interviews with both Canon Chuck Robertson and Chief Executive and Pastor Chris Backert that the author was able to establish more clearly his desire to research change and in the context of both mainline and non-denominational Churches.
Unfortunately, the first round of interviews was not as diverse as first desired. Despite a representation of two different denominational mainline Churches and two different non-denominational Churches the feedback that was received from the in-class group presentation was that the selected leaders were from either a conservative or evangelical background. This is why it was so exciting to be able to speak with Canon Chuck Robertson from the Episcopal Church and to present and receive the first primary research findings to a more diverse cohort of friends and fellow students at the General Theological Seminary.
In order to explore the dynamics of what change means in the Church the author wanted to begin to construct a literature review of the current climate of change and how the wider Church is currently trying to respond to that change.
Firstly, we review how the Catholic Church is responding to its own crises of sexual immorality that is evident amongst its clergymen and the apparent abuse that lingers in the media as the Church confesses to many of its faults in recent history. Secondly, a study on the decline of the number of students and wider congregational members of the Churches of Christ. The article speaks about decline amongst both its Church members and those seeking to become Christian leaders. The article discusses how the denomination and Educational and Training institutions must respond to the rapid decline amongst its students and shrinking seminaries.
Finally, the last article focuses on the Church of England and former Youth and Young Adults Pastor Ruth Perrin who discusses the ever changing face of Ministry and how she has become a an academic research expert and feels both fulfilled and purposeful in her new line of Ministry work. Let us get stuck into the literature review.
Article Literature Review
In order to be able to develop a clear thesis we must first discuss the current change that is happening across the Church. In order to gain a better understanding of the issue the author wanted to explore different denominations, Churches and situations outside of the Episcopal (Author’s seminary), Methodist (Author’s employer) and Hillsong (Author’s Church) own context.
The Catholic Church has been accused of sexual abuse, pedophilic acts, child abuse and human sexual immorality on multiple levels. In this quotation below we hear from the author who is a former Catholic Clergymen and gives a firsthand account of what he experienced in the context of the claims made in the media and throughout history via law suits, abuse claims and various different accounts in the global Catholic Church.
“The Church’s maleness and misogyny became inseparable from its structure. The conceptual underpinnings of clericalism can be laid out simply: Women were subservient to men. Laypeople were subservient to priests, who were defined as having been made “ontologically” superior by the sacrament of holy orders. Removed by celibacy from competing bonds of family and obligation, priests were slotted into a clerical hierarchy that replicated the medieval feudal order. When I became a priest, I placed my hands between the hands of the bishop ordaining me—a feudal gesture derived from the homage of a vassal to his lord (James Carroll, June 2019).”
Here we hear of the failure of the Catholic Church to identify the flaws within its beau acratic hierarchy and the impossibility for issues, complaints or threats to be heard, dealt with or identified. The clear struggle is with the method of communication from top down management. Where can a female, lay person or non-religious person be heard if only clergy people are in positions of council, leadership and management.
The article in the Atlantic monthly magazine is entitled “Abolish the Priesthood. Perhaps this is an inconceivable solution. However, it is apparent that the Church needs to see a change within the structures, not necessarily a whole change in the way in which Priests or Clergy people are trained, but how decisions are made, how complains can be made and how both clergy and laity can be both be heard and listened to without fear of a religious pious perspective renouncing their ability to communicate any such harm or disingenuous behavior amongst staff and leadership.
“"To save the Church, Catholics must detach themselves from the clerical hierarchy—and take the faith back into their own hands." In my case, the bishop was Terence Cooke, the archbishop of New York. Following this rubric of the sacrament, I gave my loyalty to him, not to a set of principles or ideals, or even to the Church. Should we be surprised that men invited to think of themselves on such a scale of power—even as an alter Christus, “another Christ”—might get lost in a wilderness of self-centeredness? Or that they might find it hard to break from the feudal order that provides community and preferment, not to mention an elevated status the unordained will never enjoy? Or that Church law provides for the excommunication of any woman who attempts to say the Mass, but mandates no such penalty for a pedophile priest? Clericalism is self-fulfilling and self-sustaining. It thrives on secrecy, and it looks after itself (James Carroll, June 2019).”
Carroll states the obvious issues that need to be addressed in the Church and states clearly his own experiences were not with the Church, but one individual who perhaps let power get to his head and something which all Church leaders, across traditions and denominations, can be exposed too.
When one is left to their own devices without accountability, without instruction and alone it often leads to a variety of self-deception ranging from self-pity on the lowest day and self-righteousness on the highest day. In response Carroll believes that the Church should return to itself, its wider, broader and more accountable self to resolve its own male bureaucratic faults and broken default complaint procedures. Therefore, new strategies, methods and systems must be employed in order to be able to overcome the evident difficulty the Catholic Church has in response to the current situation.
In a damning closing and clear complaint publicly to the Church, not Carroll just making a personal cry to said publics to be made aware of such a behavior, but a cry from the Priests themselves for the Church to take heed that it is not only hurting its laity, people, image and reputation, but its clergymen as well. The ones in power are hurting, damaged and afraid to seek help. Carroll brings to light one person willing to speak up. However, other have not been so fortunate and have become subject to their own self-deception. This is not an agreeable response to the Church's structure, but more than that a cry for the Church to recognize its own need to change its structures internally and to build a new format from the top down with females, sisters, laity and operations being led in such a way that all voices can be heard even if males are still ultimately in command. All voices can be heard, even if decisions are made across multiple levels by men and in response men can be informed by female wisdom and women of esteemed understanding within the Church.
Our second article is taken from the Christian Chronicle. Another specific periodical aimed at its own Church's members and educational institutions, members of the Churches of Christ. The research presented is not only apparent amongst the United Church of Christ, but also amongst other denominations and mainline Churches across the globe. The Church, in its traditional model, is in decline. As we later read this does not mean the Church is in decline, but that the more traditional model, perhaps modelled on days of yesteryear when Church attendance was booming, but not today. The fact remains that the United Church of Christ is in decline.
“The larger concern, as I stated in the report, is what happens to the church long-term when you don’t have the same number of students and alumni coming out of these universities, serving and planting churches and helping grow the population,” Hebert said. “I’m a bit of a history buff ... and as I look back, I see the beneficial, symbiotic relationship between these institutions and the growth of the church in decades past (Bobby Ross Jnr, December 2017).”
In the article there are clearly detailed statistics of decline from decades past, but what we are trying to explore is not statistical analysis, but a non-quantitative study of patterns, behaviors and positive responses which the Church, its leaders, its publics and its people can use to provide a positive response to change; whether that be in response to sexual immorality, decline or other said issues. The fundamental truth in this article is that the author is asking the Church to look at new ways, new strategies and new methodologies to re-galvanize the mainline and non-denominational Church to come out of this season, this pandemic and this decline with a positive outlook for the future.
“That’s no longer the case, or it’s greatly diminished, I should say, from what it once was,” he added. “It’s going to become even more diminished if these trends continue in the direction that they’re going. A kingdom-minded person about Churches of Christ should be overly concerned about this (Bobby Ross Jnr, December 2017).”
The author of the article goes on to explain the obvious, that despite the continued recruitment strategies, methodologies and strategies decline continues and growth is no longer apparent. Often, when there is decline institutional organizations are in denial, refuse to respond to the change and decline rapidly continues with extraordinarily little diminishing return on the failing numbers and performance. Therefore, new strategies, responses and approach to Church must be endorsed for the Church to succeed. In England, where Church decline has been far more common than growth for several years, change is at the forefront of the national Church of England’s agenda.
In our final article we experience change in a positive light and Ministry in a new way. Ruth Perrin, a former Youth and Young Adult minister, shares with us the new ministry research she has been involved in and how the Church can respond to constant and irreversible change and decline.
“I never intended to become a researcher, but, after a decade of ministry with students and young adults, I had questions about the efficacy of what I — and others — were doing. Living in Durham provided me with the opportunity for academic study; so I’ve spent ten years now researching young adult faith development, and just published a second book: Changing Shape: The faith lives of millennials (Ruth Farren, Terence Handley MacMath, 21 February 2020).
The purpose, the meaning, the relationship and the precedent that Ruth Farren describes here brings to light what the Church needs to do. To look at the efficacy of what it and others are doing. When we assess the Church like the Catholic and Church for Christ the heart, the desire and the general consensus for what the institutions are trying to do is not wrong, but the methodology, systems, processes and protocols are out of date failing, damaging, declining and deadly. Yet as a faith that believes in resurrection, not resuscitation, the Church needs to create new ways of being, doing and living as one body. Jesus described the Church as if like planting seeds, like the modern-day concept of Church planting and he described this as being rooted, not necessarily in a building, but more in a community.
“The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9).
From here we can see what it means to be alive in Christ, serving through watering, planting and seeding new land through the practical concept of sowing seeds. Ruth Ferran again help us to see how this is possible through her work, her Ministry in research and her open and candid response for the Church's need to change.
“Many years ago, God told me that he did not want me to follow a normal career path, but to follow bunny tracks: to follow where the Spirit appeared to lead me. I am not a naturally brave person; so, my life mantra has been “Fear is just excitement on a bad day.” It has been the biggest challenge when I have just wanted life to be safe and conventional. Still, 20 years of ministry, a Ph.D., and the privilege of mentoring so many young adults are not too bad a legacy (Ruth Farren, Terence Handley MacMath, 21 February 2020).
This frank admission by Ferran grants us, as Christians, the grace the Church needs. Our work is not measured by statistics, by large numbers or conventional routes to Ministry. Instead she describes an unknown journey, where she followed the Holy Spirit and responded to a call of God. An amazing story and an amazing testimony to God’s grace. Ruth’s journey describes a pathway, to the way maker, the truth and to the life of Jesus Christ. So, the question lingers, how can the Church be more like Ruth Farren, more like the change we seek and more like the body of Christ.
In response to the findings in these articles the author also looked to explore further research which will be helpful to form primary research, to form questions and to find current responses in other Church's, other denominations and further than that parachurch and non-profit organizations.
Book Literature Review
In his book entitled the “Provocative Church” Bishop Graham Tomlin describes how the Church is called to speak to the culture. The Church is called to respond to the culture, but not to be more like it. Instead the Kingdom needs to speak to the culture of its age.
“Evangelism that proclaims a gospel of truth, yet pays little attention to the kind of community it creates or the quality of life of the people it shapes, is unlikely to be listened to for very long by those who have imbedded the postmodern suspicion of disembodied truth with their Mother’s milk (Graham Tomlin, 2002, p68).”
Tomlin provides a valuable insight almost twenty years ago that is still true today. Truth, the Gospel truth, and the message of Jesus Christ can only flourish with authenticity, a full embodiment of Christ himself and to build relationship with the communities that the Church, and its people, serve intimately. Like that of a parent and a child. As we are all precious, chosen and called children of God. We must communicate this grace, lifesaving and eternal giving message.
“If human life was always meant to be lived and to flourish under God’s gentle and compassionate rule, then the Church, the community of the Kingdom, has to embody that truth =, to incarnate it, to use Christian language, if its proclamation is to be heard (Graham Tomlin, 2002, p69).
Tomlin creates a further step up to how the Church is called to respond from Ferran and we begin to see the potential the Church can have if it elects to respond in a healthy, patient and authentic way. Peter Block, in his book on Community and the Structure of Belonging, helps us to see the flaws in a rushed, unconventional and undetermined strategy that can cause any Church or Ministry to fail when attempting to build community.
“Conventional thinking about communal transformation believes that focusing on large systems, better leaders, clearer goals and more controls is essential, and that emphasizing speed and scale is critical (Peter Block, 2018, p77).
Instead Block encourages a deeper look, into the authenticity which Farren built her research, Tomlin described to us as fundamental in reflecting Christ and to which will only appeal to our human desire. Rather than predetermined traditional Church, which was chosen, determined by history, location or conventional patterns formed through ancestry lines or family ties. Church which is based upon belief, a community built on trust and a relationship focused on the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may just be what the Church needs to focus on. Through the simplicity of listening, working together in conversation and responding in kindness the Church can hear, see and respond in healthy and affirming ways to its publics, people and purpose. What does this look like practically? The Church!
“Clean something up, make a meal, start a community garden, walk some dogs, ask a neighbor if they are lonely/ The practical becomes an excuse to be together, which is needed to sustain belonging over time (Block, 2018, p85).
Block gives us practical ways in which we can see what it means to be a community. Not to over complicate, change or reduce its impact, but instead to focus on the depths of our humanity. To focus on what Maslow would say our basic esteem needs, for us to empower one another and to do good things in practical ways together.
In response to community action Christopher P. Scheitle brings to light the reality of Christian life outside of the Church. Perhaps we think of the Salvation Army and Hospitals as being the only Christian non-profit organizations outside of Church, or perhaps more modern organizations such Focus on the Family and Habitat for Humanity. However, in his book “Beyond the Congregation: The World of Christian non-profits" Scheitle introduces to us nine different sectors of parachurch ministries which make up the now infamous world of the Christian non-profit.
“Parachurch organizations have grown dominant in missions and evangelism, in all forms of communication (print and broadcast), in service to the poor, in political and social advocacy, and even in defending doctrinal orthodoxy (Tim Stafford “When Christians Fight Christians”, cited in Scheilte, 2010, p59).”
Here we see the reality of humanity and again are reminded of the Churches failings. That even when we see opportunity, when we see authenticity and freedom there are still evident challenges. We, as the Church, still face the reality of the culture we live in and that the Church is still subject to its own Church hoppers, consumer culture of nonprofits and the ever-present enigmatic personality, charismatic evangelistic groups, that draws crowds, but loses themselves, their family and friends and sanity in doing so. What Scheilte can draw out for us is the need for specificity and differentiation in our message when appealing to our publics that may only exist within the Christian non-profit sector.
“The population of Christian non-profits is so diverse that it would be impossible to provide an accurate picture with just two organizations. Their missions range from translating the Bible to producing films, from training pastors to organizing short term mission trips for youth, and from providing legal support to providing dental clinics (Scheilte, 2010, p60).”
The vastness and varied sector of non-profits allows for individuals or groups, with the right strategy, to successfully build a Ministry of their own. Yet the reality remains the same. Somebody else has done that, the concept is just slightly different, and you are still marketing to humans are all uniquely different. We just must remember that they are created in Gods image, are hungry for the love of God and all seek to know the truth and be set free. This leads us to a point of needing to ask the people. What issues do Church leaders face today when graduating their Christian leadership training.
Secondary Research Mainline Denominational Churches
Through our interviews and research, we quickly find out that training to be a Christian leader within a mainline denominational Church is not a short journey. In the Reformed Church of USA, it takes up to three years and within the LCMS tradition it can take up to four years. Neither of these processes are guaranteed to lead to success, ordination, employment or job security. Pastors and Priests are expected to be submissive, convicted and willingly laying down their life, despite whatever the financial outcome, to a life of religious service and in some cases against all moral and ethical code of practices even within the secular society we live in today. It is believed that these “Spiritual Practices” will form and find those who aspire to become Christian leaders (Sayer, Lytikanian, 2020, Appendix 2).
Steve Sayer, Pastor at the Harrington Park Community Church, based in a suburban small town, in an affluent white neighborhood and with over a 100-person congregation describes the real issues that all new Christian leaders of today faces in the North East region of the United States and it is not one that is a personal issue.
“The church in North America is in decline. You can be particularly good at what you do, and yet you may still see that decline where you serve. You may not make the difference in the church and the world that you anticipate. You must be prepared for that, and I suspect it is not easy to be prepared for that (P. Steve Sayer, February 2020, Appendix 2).
Likewise, Pastor Matt Lytikanian, also from a mainline tradition, LCMS Church in Hoboken, describes the reality of doing Ministry as one which is not easy and that obstacles will not just be in the Church's decline. Pastor Matt describes the need for the theological institutions of a variety of traditions to equip their leaders with more training in the practical skills and on the job-training in Ministerial leadership.
“We (Church leaders) need to somehow learn more about practical teaching like finances, congregational dynamics, logistics of a Church Building and all the dynamics of Church. For example, some Professors argue that at seminary you can only learn certain things in the classroom and that you will learn the practical elements in the field and outside in the workplace. For some people this has been difficult (P. Matt Lytikanian, 2020, Appendix 2).”
So, it seems the issues we discussed previously impact all mainline Churches across the United States. Pastors in the North East of the United States have experienced similar decline to the Church of Christ that we discussed in our literature review and face up to similar issues, to the Catholic Church’s internal complaint procedures. That there is a need for a change within their internal hierarchy as a Church and within their theological training and educational institutions. Best described by Ruth Farren to see what she, and others were doing and how it could be improved. This leads us to our non-denominational Church’s and the Pastors we interviewed and their responses to the same question about the issues the Church faces today when dealing with change.
Whilst constructing the research for the primary research all the Pastors and Christian Leaders that were interviewed agreed that the Church was in decline That there was a need for change and that the Training and Educational institutions such as Universities, Colleges and Seminaries had to review their programs and explore new ways of developing their curriculums and courses. Indeed Pastor Matt Lytikanian stated that he felt the Church was causing pain for friends who had walked away from the faith and that the decline in the Church, the lack of training and preparation for the financial struggles within self-support fundraising when working in Ministry were not clearly advertised and that this causes great anxiety for leaders, family members and people alike.
Secondary Research Review Non-Denominational Churches
Both Pastors Abi and Pastor Dave from the non-denominational Church shared their concerns about the future of individuals who would be entering the profession. Pastor Dave Haney stated that he felt the balance in Ministry can be difficult balancing both ministry time and family time. Whilst Pastor Abi felt that it was key for the Christian leader be sure of God's word, to know how to teach, to learn what to teach and be sure of what God is saying to them in and through their ministry. The instructions, commitment and devout description of what both Pastors Abi and Pastor Dave shared that the goal is to know God’s word.
“Know the Word, Know the Word, Know the word. Not just the letter of the Law, but Christ who is the word. Seek to find Him in every verse, sentence and paragraph from Genesis to Revelation. Be intimate with God. Because in Him is life and revelation (P. Abi Oriowo, 2020 Appendix 3).”
Building on God's Word Pastor Dave Haney stated that it was essential for Christian leaders to be sure of their calling. That they Loved God, Love People and were aware of how important it is to have your heart and mind right if you are to be a Preacher of God's word (P. Dave Haney, 2020, Appendix 3).
Primary Research with Ministry Leaders
In order to obtain a fuller understanding of how the Church can respond to change it is imperative that we explore the current Covid 19 pandemic and how the Church should be building a response to the current changes it faces it with no physical meetings, in person gatherings or large worship meetings being allowed across the United States and the world right now. According to Canon Chuck Robertson this situation is having an immediate impact upon the Episcopal Church.
“Today the reality is that Covid 19 is accelerating or revealing rapid change to already declining Churches. Places which are perhaps not viable or healthy for Ministry, I do not necessarily mean small versus large congregations, have been impacted faster than anticipated. Those are not viable or unhealthy today maybe shut down immediately. Plus, those that looked like not being viable or unhealthy in five to ten years' time in February 2020, now look more likely to close much sooner. What process the new Church leader faces is much different to before. (Canon Chuck Robertson, 2020, Appendix 5).
For some Church leaders their congregants are not necessarily able to use online technology due to wealth, age, health or access so the Church becomes about prayers, telephone calls and extremely limited access to its congregants, donors and Church family. If the Church is to meet the need of its people, like any organization in a crisis it also needs its people. Church entrepreneurial leader Christ Backart, CEO of Fresh Expressions Ministries a Pioneer network of Church’s and Church leaders, lists nine different attributes which he feels Church ministry leaders do not have upon graduation from traditional seminaries (Chris Backart, 2020, Appendix 6). Conclusion The mainline and traditional Church is in decline. The non-denominational and Para-Church sector is facing its own internal heart issues and is in need to respond to the continuous infighting, across non-profit organizations, Christian charities and ministries. If focusing on its it almost seems that the institutional and wider Church needs a reboot, a rebrand and reconstruction from the inside out. Enter Covid 19. The pandemic has seen some fantastic work as the Church moves together to respond in crisis it always seems to come together. Only when in a season of internal or collaborative reflection does it seem we cannot work together. Yet when hurricanes, tornados or pandemics hit the Church comes together. As I witnessed today with the release of the “UK Blessing” across the UK we see the Church is alive.
However, in one sweeping move in response to this pandemic the UK Church came together as 65 Churches across the UK including Catholic, Pentecostal Church of England other traditions uniting to sing a 3,000-year-old blessing over the nation. The same cohort of Churches are serving together to provide over 400,000 meals to those in need including the UK National Health Service, the needy and the hungry. When in crisis, when in response to a need the Church moves. Not because it is called to, but when all else fails we turn to God and only then, only then, can his strength be made perfect in humanities complete weakness. Full surrender equals full access for the Holy Spirit! Furthermore, the UK was joined by many other Nations, Churches, ministries and non-profit organization in similar relief and musical efforts including South Africa with different languages, age groups and dialects taking part to sing. The Church is alive! Hallelujah! In Jesus name, Amen!
Bibliography, References and Appendices
Source: The Atlantic written by James Carroll, June 2019 Issue. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/06/to-save-the-church-dismantle-the-priesthood/588073/
Source: The Christian Chronicle, Article written by Editor and Chief Bobby Ross Jnr, An International Newspaper for Churches of Christ, December 26, 2017. https://christianchronicle.org/christian-universities-feeling-the-pinch-as-churches-of-christ-shrink/
Source: Church Times Interview with Ruth Farren by Research by Terence Handley MacMath 21 February 2020 https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2020/21-february/features/interviews/interview-ruth-perrin-research-fellow
Peter Block, (2018), Community – The Structure of Belonging, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. Second Edition.
Christopher P. Scheitle, (2010), "Beyond the Congregation – The World of Christian Non-profits", Oxford University Press.
Graham Tomlin, (2004), "The Provocative Church". Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Second Edition
Appendix 1.1 Contentious Topic
“For my contentious topic I would like to explore the role of the Church and its role in offering career support, advice and supervision to both Lay and Ordained Christian leaders across both Mainline and non-denominational Churches.
Since my arrival at General I have been offered immediate ordination and Senior Pastor, six figure Ministry Director salary, traditional ordination paths across multiple denominations and lay full time ministry work. These unfortunately have not worked out for different reasons, and I know I am not alone in being confused when considering different Church career options. However, as we are the Church what are we doing to inform our fellow Brothers and Sisters whether lay or ordained. This includes career advice at the start of the call to full time Ministry, the ongoing challenges of a full-time ministry role and the financial realities and difficulties of sustaining, training and developing lay and ordained Church leaders.
My questions around mainline Churches may fall around the reality of the declining number of clergy career options with full time work, housing, health care and benefits becoming less and less likely to be a guaranteed viable lifelong guarantee. Questions will include: How are traditional denominations working with theological institutions to train lay and ordained Christian leaders in self-support fundraising, building maintenance, architecture law and part time / full time alternatives to full time ministry.
With regards to non-denominational Churches my questions will be around sustaining a full time Pastors position whilst Church planting, the financial realities of launching a non-profit (Church plant) and the Churches support systems to help failing, declining, fiscally insecure and insufficiently sponsored full time Christian leaders.
The interviews I conduct will be with members of both mainline and non-denominational Churches to seek clarity not just about the processes of interviewing, selecting and screening lay and ordained clergy, but also to understand what standards are to be considered “successful” and how this can be decided before an individual has been serving for more than one or two years.”
Appendix 2: Interviews with Pastors RCUSA and LCMS
Below are the questions I asked to two Pastors from the Reformed Church of USA and the Lutheran Missouri Church synod traditions.
Who are you / where do you come from? How did you become a Pastor? How does somebody become a Pastor in your tradition? What advice do you give to lay Christian leaders exploring a call? What issues / problems have you encountered yourself / when advising others / in the future? Steve Sayer Pastor at Reformed Church of USA (Mainline)
Who are you / where do you come from? “I grew up in the Reformed Church in America in NJ.”
How did you become a Pastor? “I went to Hope College, a Reformed Church in America, a Reformed Church school. Already a devout Christian, I was required to study religion and found that I enjoyed it. I was also receiving some feedback from people that I ought to think about becoming a pastor. I started seminary as a kind of experiment, in order to see if a call emerged. It did. Gradually I felt more certain about this calling to ministry”.
How does somebody become a Pastor in your tradition? “It’s a 27-month process, at least. The consistory of your home church petitions the classis to take you under care. The classis then examines you each year, and then there is a final examination in certain delineated areas. Upon receiving a call to ministry, you are ordained.”
What advice do you give to lay Christian leaders exploring a call? “Talk to a bunch of pastors before making the decision. Make certain that there is nothing else that would leave you feeling like you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. This is hard work that requires a lot of sacrifice.”
What issues / problems have you encountered yourself / when advising others / in the future? “The church in North America is in decline. You can be particularly good at what you do, and yet you may still see that decline where you serve. You may not make the difference in the church and the world that you anticipate. You have to be prepared for that, and I suspect it’s not easy to be prepared for that.”
Matt from Mile Square Church Hoboken from the Lutheran Missouri Church Synod
Who are you / where do you come from?
“Pastor at an LCMS Church. From the Midwest, first time on the East Coast. Went to Concordia seminary. Pastor from the LCMS. I grew up in this tradition and remain a Pastor within this tradition.”
How did you become a Pastor? “It stems from when I was an Eighth grader in Public Middle School and had an opportunity to shadow a Pastor. I was shadowing a Pastor on work experience and learnt a lot from him and desired to teach, share word and sacrament. Had an Epiphany moment and I learnt I could talk, proclaim and pray about Jesus every day. Yes, please I said, sign me up I would love that. I entered for four years at the Concordia School and in preparation got a major in theological studies and a minor in youth studies. From a lay candidate I was interviewed, had my professor provide me a letter of good standing and provided me with entry level skills in order to get in. I then, whilst at seminary, had to pass Biblical exams with Greek and Hebrew and the GRE exams equivalent to the Episcopal GOE exams.”
How does somebody become a Pastor in your tradition? “What I described is traditional route for people into our tradition. I believe you can also be ordained within one tradition and become licensed to that congregation. I am not sure what happens if people fail, study an MA (not MDiv) and if they develop a clear pathway to get through in our denomination. Outside of the local licensing I do not know of a different pathway than the tradition I already described. The first two years at seminary are in the classroom, the second two years includes one year in the field and then you return for one more year and then you become a candidate for ordination. Upon completion you are then given a call and then you can turn this call down, but this is heavily unadvised. All the usual processes are included with interview, background checks and personality and character testing. “
What advice do you give to lay Christian leaders exploring a call? “Given that I have only been a Pastor for three years my experience in this is limited. However, I have helped one individual to discern his options, call and looked at a pathway to become a Pastor within our tradition. This involved discussing seminaries, theological education institutions and the things we already discussed. We encourage Pastors, within our tradition, to explore their call. From my experience I have found that my friends, others who have followed a call into ordained ministry within our tradition and do others see you in that role as a Pastor. What do others think about you becoming a Pastor and why do they feel like you would become a good Pastor. If people see that in you, share it with you and today there are different alternate routes today that are available and how to become ordained. Its changing and I am learning myself about that as the traditional routes as I did not do it myself. Outside of the traditional route is the SNP program, which is when you are in one congregation, distance education route and do intensive classes so can work full time. Ordination is included in that process and you can be licensed to that congregation. You can be a staff member during this process and learn to become a Pastor through a more distance learning route.” What issues / problems have you encountered yourself / when advising others / in the future? “The problems I think for many tradition and denominations is the way that scholarly, theological education and practical teaching has left some of our Pastors short for what is required in the field of ministry. For Pastors in our tradition four years are exceptionally long routes. For other traditions such as Baptists its much shorter. We need to somehow learn more about practical teaching like finances, congregational dynamics, logistics of a Church Building and all the dynamics of Church. For example, some Professors argue that at seminary you can only learn certain things in the classroom and that you will learn the practical elements in the field and outside in the workplace. For some people this has been difficult. One of my friends has left his call and ultimately stepped back from doing Ministry. However, this is not my experience I have had support from external places including City to City, Redeemer and my District I would not have survived. Whilst in community with other traditions and Pastors and Priests outside of my tradition I have learnt that people are open to seeking more support, help and learning to grow un managing a Church, the profession and in New York especially you need to address different issues. For example, Redeemer and City to City believe heavily in learning how to do Ministry in New York and their teaching is about doing practical ministry in the city with all the challenges and obstacles we face in the city.”
Appendix 3 – Interviews with Non-Denominational Churches
Interview with Hoboken Evangelical Free Pastor Dave Haney
How did you become a Pastor? After coming to know Jesus as my Savior I felt God calling me into vocational ministry. I enrolled at Cairn university in the Biblical Studies program. After graduating I applied to some churches as a youth pastor. I served in youth ministry for 10 years then was hired as Lead Pastor in 2015.
How does somebody become a Pastor in your tradition?
The person must be called into ministry by the Lord. Others should confirm seeing that calling in their life. Apply to a church and go through the search process and candidating process with that church. If hired, they are a pastor on staff. To be ordained in the EFCA you must submit a doctrinal statement to a council who then interviews you. If approved by them, they watch your ministry for 3 years. At the end of those years you sit with the ordination council and they interview you. If approved, you are now an ordained.
What advice do you give to lay Christian leaders exploring a call?
Love Jesus! Love People! But also make sure you truly feel called into vocational ministry. If you are then getting a great mentor and make sure you spend a lot of time with Jesus.
What issues / problems have you encountered yourself / when advising others / in the future? Issues I have encountered over my time in ministry have been balancing ministry time and family time. Also making sure I am staying connected to Jesus in my personal life not just when I am preparing for messages. Future and present issues would be not being distracted by or wanting to be like other churches and just working to follow what myself and the Elders feel God is calling us to be in our community.
Interview with Abi from Seek Church NYC
Who are you / where do you come from?
“Abi Oriowo, NIgerian.”
How did you become a Pastor? “I was ordained by my church Seek Church, but also come from a line of pastors in my family.”
How does somebody become a Pastor in your tradition? “A lot is through ordination, but there is also a time and value for serving and being raised by another pastor.” What advice do you give to lay Christian leaders exploring a call? “Know the Word, Know the Word, Know the word. Not just the letter of the Law, but Christ who is the word. Seek to find Him in every verse, sentence and paragraph from Genesis to Revelation. Be intimate with God. Because in Him is life and revelation. “
What issues / problems have you encountered yourself / when advising others / in the future? “I find sometimes I rely on advice and words other have said to me in the past when advising others, but God has really taught me to look to him for a Rhema word. To listen for words of wisdom in the moment.”
Appendix 5: One to One Interview with Canon Chuck Robertson of the Episcopal Church What Challenges Episcopal Priests and Graduates of Seminary Face in June 2020? “Within an Episcopal context we are learning fast that education versus real life is not what we thought. Today the reality is that Covid 19 is accelerating or revealing rapid change to already declining Churches. Places which are perhaps not viable or healthy for Ministry, I do not necessarily mean small versus large congregations, have been impacted faster than anticipated. Those are not viable or unhealthy today maybe shut down. Plus, those that are not viable or unhealthy in five to ten years' time in February 2020, now look more likely to close much sooner. What process the new Church leader faces is much different to before. Perhaps certain areas of the Church are still functioning like in the 1950's or the 1990's, but the reality is that we are not there anymore. We do not have the real luxury of the infighting that we have going on right now and we need to start addressing issues to do with Church systems, monetary and financial concerns which are evidently now more of an urgent issue. Leaders upon graduation need to say their prayers, instill a clear vision for their ministry, humbly before the Lord, clearly defining a specific methodology to achieve this vision and a willingness to be learning and doing through this season of change.” What challenges do Church Leaders and Graduates of Seminary Face in June 2020?
“The Body of Christ needs to remember all its parts and that each part has its purpose. Do not harm one another. Love instead of hate. How can we encourage the other parts where we can offer encouragement? Perhaps we need to assume positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts and that different Churches are doing good. What can we do as individuals, Churches and Ministry leaders? We can start by seeking to help the larger Body of Christ. Enabling creative conversations learning and strengthening each other. In the wider Church I can think of specific examples. However, I can speak for the Episcopal Churches history and perhaps suggest specific examples this way. Firstly, the Chicago and Lambeth agreement from 1888, modelled by William Reed, could be used to shape the wider Church, culture and relationship between Schools, Businesses, other functional organizations and the wider Church. However, this follows perhaps despite the naivety of the Edinburgh statement from 1910 which optimistically speak into the potential Church growth, but all too soon as the Crusades, Church Wars and Great War would soon follow. As a result, the 1920 Lambeth Conference provides an excellent model for the Church to approach the future with uniformity and Diversity. The Bishops of the War of Christians led this change. We must not be bickering amongst ourselves but finding a way to celebrate and hear about our differences together. It is through the model of God’s word that sets before us that we need to be innocent as doves and as wise as serpents. Through our response we will see how we will form the future of the Episcopal Church and wider Church, the Spirit by which we engage others will inform our identity and finally we must reduce our own conflict management issues.”
Appendix 6: One to One Interview with CEO of Fresh Expressions Chris Backart What challenges do Church Leaders and Graduates of Seminary Face in June 2020? “In general, I think the answers to both questions are the same right now ... most leaders leaving seminary don't know how to do the following list of issues. 1. Lead and grow a "hybrid" kind of church. One that is attractional, missional, and now digital. 2. They have not been given a sufficient education in leading change 3. They are not aware how to read the context they find themselves in 4. They have not been developed as entrepreneurs (which is needed in most situations today). 5. They do not have an adequate practical understanding of the Holy Spirit 6. They have not given much thought to their anthropology and how it aligns with both the orthodox teachings of the church as well as the current context. They mostly only respond out of the context. 7. They do not know how to exercise adaptive leadership 8. They were not equipped for the technical/digital side of ministry we must all now inhabit. 9. They are not equipped to share the Gospel or help others share the Gospel
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