Field Research: Pastor Interviews
- Sense of Calling: Supernatural insight of need for Christ-centered sober living homes in his community.
- Recommended Books: “Addiction: A Banquet in the Grave” Edward T. Welch, and “Desiring God” John Piper
- Weekly Priorities: 1) Raising money. 2) Guiding the residents.
- Rejoice: God is changing lives.
- Mourn: Witnessing guys return to their bondage.
- Word of Wisdom: Ministry requires vision and long obedience. It can only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Sense of Calling: Supernatural craving to care for people with deep relationship wounds.
- Recommended Books: Relationships, e.g., marriage, parenting, friends.
- Weekly Priorities: Making disciples (fellowship, study, prayer & worship, church ministry, outreach)
- Rejoice: When people realize that walking with God is a life-giving relationship not dead religious duty.
- Mourn: The church is shackled in legalism and outmoded modernist ways.
- Word of Wisdom The blessings of the LORD brings no regrets.
- Sense of Calling – Supernatural call to pastor while in college.
- Recommended Books: “Henry Morris Study Bible”, “The Forgotten Ways” Alan Hirsch, “The Jefferson Lies” David Barton, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” Dinesh D’Souza, “Total Truth” and “Finding Truth” Nancy Pearcy, “The Barbarian Way” and “Chasing Daylight” Erwin McManus
- Weekly Priority: Reclaiming organic discipleship.
- Rejoice: Witnessing people move from one glory to another by integrating God’s truth in their lives.
- Mourn: Tendency of leadership to focus more on protecting positions and brokering control, i.e. rank selfishness, rather than empowering the church and the lack of courage in the church.
- Word of Wisdom: Keep ministry simple, organic, and incarnational.
- Sense of Calling: Supernatural call to pastor local church that evolved to serving marginalized people.
- Recommended Books: “The Road Less Traveled” Scott Peck
- Weekly Priorities: Transitioning from counseling and teaching to raising money for Pakistan.
- Rejoice: Victories in Christ, e.g. purchasing people out of human trafficking market.
- Mourn: Witnessing people lose to debilitating addictions and the conformed lifestyle of Western men.
- Word of Wisdom: Be true to Christ by never bowing down the system or a lifestyle.
- Sense of Calling: Audible call from God, “Be about my word and my people.”
- Recommended Book: “The Forgotten Ways” Alan Hirsch, “Do Over” Jon Acuff.
- Weekly Priorities: Tuesday staff meetings, Most urgent on tasks and people on calendar, Reactive rather than proactive
- Rejoice: Witnessing the Holy Spirit work in life transforming discipleship, community life, Sunday gatherings.
- Mourn: The poor will always be with us.
- Words of Wisdom: Unleash the ministry God has placed your heart.
One observation I took note of during this field assignment is that I did not seek out executive pastors for the interviews. After much prayer for divine appointments these gentlemen and their respective narrowly cast niche ministries were the first that came to mind. This is interesting to me because I also am a niche minister with a narrow cast. Whenever I consider ministering, preferably on a circuit, it is always with a specific set of felt needs in mind. I suppose sub-culture is the word I am looking for. Much like my specialist friends, I have also been called to pastor a subculture. There is something about the homogeneity of the modernist church culture at large that, even though I belong to, prevents me from fitting in because of my extreme life experiences and specialized strain of formal education. This has proven to be a painful experience for me, as well as them, time and time again. Thankfully love over looks a multitude of relational sins. Nonetheless, I praise God that I am not bound by modernist traditions. Trust, I am down for whatever (so long as it does not involve disobeying the Word of God) and sold out to the highest bidder, Jesus the Christ who paid the ultimate price for my life. Besides, I have not been able to fit in so far for a good reason, God is still making my place in the Church. Amen.
Another observation is that this strain of pastors openly acknowledged the supernatural aspect of their callings and ministry. That’s what is up! It is so refreshing to hear men of God discuss God as Spirit because that is the truth of the matter of ministry and worship. This truth must be told more often because the spirit of why and how anyone does ministry determines the results. For example, when a do-gooder league determines to do some good then good usually gets done. Another example, when wealthy philanthropists resolve to promote the welfare of others by donating money then, most likely, the welfare of others will be promoted. In both instances effectively whitewashing individuals and communities “felt needs.”Conversely, when the Spirit of God calls someone to ministry and ministry is done in the Spirit of God lives, then individuals and communities experience spirit deep transformation. In order to go spirit deep, you must be willing and able to discuss the reality of spiritual matters. I am grateful to traffic in circles where the Spirit of God is not only welcome in the discussion but is the leading voice.
One lesson that I am recognizing as I meditate on the interviews of this particular field assignment is that each pastor pointedly shared how their hearts were fitly made for their present ministries by long journeys of obedience. Sigh. Big sigh and spirit deep consent. Seems that God, in His grace, is bracing me for a long journey of obedience lessons to make my heart fit for a niche pastorate. I say this because the same message of “God’s timing” for ministry has been coming up in Spirit led conversations outside of this assignment as well. All the same, nothing in my life occurs in its very own vacuum, self-contained microcosms appearing from nowhere or vanishing into nowhere, school assignment or otherwise. Especially when it comes to God speaking into my life through the lives of others. God bless the faithful prophets and thank God for the sense to hear his voice! At any rate, I have been an anxious ball of mixed emotions for a while. I am turned on, all revved up, and ready to drive the postmodern mission. No wonder God is pumping my breaks. I have the passion but my heart is not ready. Most people resist being driven anywhere, let alone towards a God the Church has atomized into abstract doctrines and prejudices. Who needs that? I digress. My point is that I am not yet the inspiration nor pastor Yahweh, i.e. our personal and caring Father God, intends me to be.
The observation that I lead out with is that all five pastors, by no influence from my part, unanimously commented on the need for major spiritual reformation in the Western Church. Having studied church history and culture for quite some time now, this seems to be the consensus among many sagacious observers. The overarching argument is that there is little, if any difference, statistically between those who confess Christ as Lord and secular culture (Barna 1999). Enter Dietrich BonHoeffer’s “Cheap Grace” and Richard Banks’ “Sanctification Gap,” both of which justifiably opine the disconnect between what Christians profess versus how we actually live. Duh. That’s what the shove off from the Puritans was all about. Under Puritan leadership the Church grew to be a mile deep spiritually but an inch wide membership wise. As an aside, the Puritans were huge advocates of accountability partners. Someone had to bear the marks of genuine spiritual regeneration or else they were not allowed to come to church. Elders would literally observe someone the first year after their profession of faith. During that year, you were not allowed to go to church but members would come to you. If you bore fruit, you could come to church. Serious business. Anyway, a generation of Church leaders stripped the Church from the Puritans and made a point of growing the church a mile wide at the expense of spiritual depth. Intentionally lessening accountability and incorporating modernist, i.e. Enlightenment reasoning, values in all the areas where accountability and the power of the Holy Spirit are needed most. Is that really a body for Christ’s spirit? Nope. It is a modernist paradise, heaven on earth and the age to come. I am sure if secular men and women are able to discern this (Ghandi), we are not going to get it by God’s radar. I like that one saying, “God is calling. He wants His Church back.”
So that there is no confusion, my pastor friends love the Church, as do I. Are we perfectly holy? Nope. I just find it interesting that churches are green housing the spiritual gifts of accounting and investing while neglecting, if not despising, prophesy, speaking in tongues, deliverance, healing, and apostleship. I get it, financial literacy is definitely a “felt need” ministry of the West but so are the more exotic spiritual gifts Amen? The encouragement during the interviews is that God is not dead. The Holy Spirit is still alive, well, and brooding a new movement. Moreover, Jesus is determined to have His bride. Thankfully, these five men minister to serve Her best interest. Prayerfully, I also intend to be on the team that delivers Her from Her modern bondages.
If you are reading this, please pray that I would learn the Godly wisdom and inner strength to become the pastor intends me to be (www.facebook.com/nicholasharmon).