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Is working in a church a hindrance to spiritual development?

3 July, 2003 11:37 PM

John Campea asks the above question.

Its a very good one and something that I've been wondering over the past few years. I remember coming to a realisation last year that some of the reasons I entered the path of ministry that I'm currently on have actually not come to be.

Perhaps I was a little niave - but one reason I first decided to go to bible college 10 years ago was because I hoped that it would deepen my own faith journey. I also had similar aspirations when I accepted a position as youth pastor at my home church as a 22 year old.

Whilst I feel my faith is now deeper than it was 10 years ago - I really wonder how that came to be!?! I'm not convinced it was the 'ministry' itself. As John says in his post the pressures of such work can sometimes work against a deepening faith.

So my question is - how do/should we sustain our personal spirituality on such a journey?



Good question. It's easy to put the work of the church ahead of everything--after all, aren't we doing it for God? But a friend of mine once told me that not all church work is God's work. She encouraged me to do several things.

1. Read at least a chapter a day in the Bible
2. Start and keep a spiritual journal
3. Spend time everyday in praise prayer--not running through the list of things I want, but thanking God for all that He is and is doing.

Now, you can adapt that however you need to. But it's really pretty simple--read the Word,write down what you learn, and thank God. It helps me, anyway.

Missy » 4 July, 2003 1:09 AM

I'm hearing this question from a few people. I'm wondering. Maybe it's not that it's not possible to grow in Christ while in the pastorate. Maybe the problem is that there are some people in the pastorate who aren't meant to be there. Maybe God gave these people gifts to be used for ministry out in the world, and not specifically in the pastorate.

kevin » 4 July, 2003 5:29 AM

But what is this thing you call "The Pastorate"?

John Campea » 4 July, 2003 9:08 AM

The role of the ministry team is to foster spiritual development in the congregation.

As I have explained to Phil at signposts on numerous occasions, and which he always ignores, that belief in god would seem a prerequisite for being a member of the congregation, the same rule need not necessarily apply to the minister. His role is to develop spirituality in his flock and he may be excellent at this without embracing it himself. Certain TV evangelists spring to mind.

chris » 4 July, 2003 12:16 PM

John - I'm talking about Ephesians 4 - those people who God has called out and given back to the church for the purpose of equipping the body.

kevin » 4 July, 2003 4:59 PM

I wonder if part of the difficulty is that we come with the assumption that "paid accountable ministry" or "working in the church" has more of a chance at helping one to deepen their faith than being a doctor, a teacher, a candlestick maker, a diplomat, a millright, a plumber, etc. etc. etc.

In some ways that assumption seems to be logical - we're going to be working with scripture on a regular basis, we're going to be working with Christ's people on a a regular basis, we're going to be working to help share the Good News with the world.

But the problem is... its "work". We come to scripture knowing that we've got to get X devotional, Y sermon, Zed meditation put together. We go to a wedding feast, knowing that we're expected to pray. We go to a Council meeting and are expected to bring Wisdom with us, even on areas in which we have no sense one way or another. After a while, we stop celebrating our faith and start working it.

Perhaps we need to go into church work with the assumption that it will help our faith onlyasmuch as become a teacher does our brother, or a politician our sister. If we start at that point, *all* of us called to ministry in various forms and *all* of us needed to constantly learn and celebrate our faith, perhaps the hindrance wouldn't exist.

Richard » 4 July, 2003 10:00 PM

Hey Kevin
I want to push you on your thinking a little bit. By quoting Ephesians 4, are you saying that anyone who has a gift for teaching, should be designated in "The Pastorate"? Don't others, not on staff of the church, also have some of the Ephesians 4 duty of leading and "preparing God's people for works of service"?

Thus, are you saying that anyone who has gifts which are equipping in nature are automatically considered in "The Pastorate"?

Since Ephesians and other NT books strictly teach the equality of the gifts in the "One Body" analogy, why do we take it upon ourselves to give some gifts a special designation (such as "The Pastorate") and others we don't?

I'm honestly not trying to pick a fight, I'm just trying to understand where you're going with your train of thought.


John Campea » 5 July, 2003 7:54 PM

Not at all what I'm saying, John. The qualifier for being part of that group is not "teaching", but "called out by God and sent to the church for his purpose of equipping the church until the return of the Son."

In other words, some people are specifically called by God to be pastors. Others have the gifts and make use of those gifts (such as teaching, exhortation, intercession, what have you) within the church, but are not pastors, as you have mentioned. My thought is that maybe we have people who, because they have and use the gifts, have mistakenly assumed that to mean they are called to be pastors and are serving in a pastoral role within the church, when that isn't really the calling.

kevin » 6 July, 2003 5:06 AM

If I may jump into the conversation between John and Kevin...

I hope that I can present a different perpective. I have difficulty believing that there is anyone who is called to be a pastor in our modern institutional idea of pastor. In most cases it is mental, spiritual and, in some cases, intellectual suicide.

As far as "called out by God and sent to the church for his purpose of equipping the church until the return of the Son", aren't we all called to this ministry?

Why do we single out a person who is given certain gifts to be the one who gives guidance to a local body?

Jeremy Olson » 6 July, 2003 6:42 PM

I think you are setting up an unfair dichotomy, Jeremy. I don't think either idea you mention is correct.

First, turn to Ephesians 4. It seems to me that God is, indeed, calling a certain group of people to something that is different from what we are all called to do.

But, I don't think the "one guy in charge" thing is necessarily the best way to run a church, either. I prefer a team leadership of equals. Of course, in many churches (just not the ones we make fun of), that's really what the leadership is. Yes, there is a 'senior pastor'. But, in a healthy church, he doesn't puff himself up as something great. He sees himself as just one of the pastors with a particular job.

kevin » 7 July, 2003 4:02 AM

I understood Eph 4. meant that the purpose of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers was ALL to prepare God's people for works of service, building up the body; not just pastors and teachers being separated out....

Rachel C » 8 July, 2003 8:18 AM

Great discussion. I think that equally the beauty and the frustrations with church in whatever form is that they are made of up unique individuals. Every pastor is different, just as every lawyer or doctor is different. I've found that lately I've been into discussing stereotypes of what 'mainstream' and 'emerging church' pastors/leaders are like when in reality, every person has their own gifts, strengths and weaknesses. The craziest part about God's idea of church is that he uses imperfect people. It's hard sometimes to get off the soapbox long enough to see that we are just as selfish and ungodly (me very much included).

Luke » 8 July, 2003 11:34 AM

Rachel - I'm not going to go into a bible study here, though I may do so at my place on this passage. I read it to say that there is a group God has called out, much like he did in the OT with the Levites. Though, I can see where it could be read in other ways. But, for the purpose of understanding what I am trying to say in this thread, it is not important we all agree on the interpretation of this passage.

Let me put my response to the original post another way:

Maybe there are people serving as pastors in traditional churches who are growing. Just because some people do not find that situation healthy does not mean no one can. It just might mean that some of us who once thought we were meant to serve in such a church never really were. If you are miserable in what you are doing, maybe you should stop doing it.

kevin » 8 July, 2003 6:47 PM

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