Pastor: Revised Edition: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry

Pastor: Revised Edition: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry

by William H. Willimon

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Overview

Ordained ministry, says Will Willimon, is a gift of God to the church—but that doesn't mean that it is easy. Always a difficult vocation, changes in society and the church in recent years have made the ordained life all the more complex and challenging. Is the pastor primarily a preacher, a professional caregiver, an administrator? Given the call of all Christians to be ministers to the world, what is the distinctive ministry of the ordained? When does one's ministry take on the character of prophet, and when does it become that of priest? What are the special ethical obligations and disciplines of the ordained?

Pastor: Revised Edition explores these and other central questions about the vocation of ordained ministry. It begins with a discussion of who pastors are, asking about the theological underpinnings of ordained ministry, and then moves on to what pastors do, looking at the distinctive roles the pastor must fulfill. The book also draws on great teachers of the Christian tradition to demonstrate that, while much about Christian ministry has changed, its core concerns—preaching the word, the care of souls, the sacramental life of congregations—remains the same.

Ordained ministry is a vocation to which we are called, not a profession that we choose. To answer that call is to open oneself to heartache and sometimes hardship; yet, given the one who calls, it is to make oneself available to deep and profound joy as well.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501804915
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 02/16/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Will Willimon has long been a trusted colleague for working preachers. He is known for his encouragement of his fellow preachers to enjoy telling the truth of Jesus Christ. He is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke University Divinity School, Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program, and is a retired Bishop of the United Methodist Church. For 20 years as, as Dean of the Chapel at Duke University, Will became known as one of America’s most engaging preachers of the gospel.

Will Willimon has published many books, including his preaching subscription service on MinistryMatters.com, Pulpit Resource, and Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love, both published by Abingdon Press.

Read an Excerpt

Pastor

The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry


By William H. Willimon

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2016 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5018-0491-5



CHAPTER 1

Ordination:
Why Pastors?


New Creation by Water and the Word

In the living room of my grandmother's rambling house, after a large Sunday dinner, family and friends gathered. Lifting a silver bowl filled with water, the preacher said words, made promises, and then baptized me — made me Christian. There is much about this originating faith event that I would have done differently. (Baptism properly belongs in a church, not in a living room.) Yet God manages to work wonders despite the ineptitude of the church. Becoming a Christian is something done to us, for us, before it is anything done by us. What we might have done differently, had it been our action alone, is not as important as what Christ and his church do for us in baptism. As an infant, I was the passive recipient of this work in my behalf. Someone had to hold me, had to administer the water of baptism, had to tell me the story of Jesus and what he had done, had to speak the promises of what he would do, had to live the faith before me so that I might assume the faith for myself. In other words, by water and the word, that I am Christian is all gift, grace.

Thus I began as a Christian by water and the word. Thus the world began (Gen 1). Brooding over the primordial waters, God speaks, and a new world springs forth. My world as a Christian began in baptism, that strange, deep, formative, and indicative rite of the Christ and his church. It is up to God, in each generation, to make the church, to call by water and the word a new people into being, or there is no church.

Jesus's baptism in the Jordan by John was the beginning of his ministry. When Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened and there was a voice, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22b). It is a scene reminiscent of the Spirit of God brooding over the primal waters of creation, creating a new world, then pronouncing it all "very good" (Gen 1:31). Luke follows this dramatic baptismal descent of the Spirit with an unexciting genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38), taking Jesus's paternity all the way back to Adam. I suppose this is Luke's way of reiterating the gifted quality of the Beloved. True, Christ is a gift from heaven, fruit of the descent of the Holy Spirit, yet he is also the bequest of the ages, of a gaggle of ordinary folk like Peleg, Eber, Shelah, Noah, and Adam. He is here as gift of God from above and also of Israel from below.

In my baptism, I was product of a human family, a people who had clung to the promised land of upcountry South Carolina for five generations, scratching out a living in cotton and cows until my nativity into a new generation who would rather live off schools, churches, and hospitals than work the land. It was a human family, with the goodness and badness of most any family.

Yet I was, as signified that day in my baptism, also a gift of God. Heaven was mixed up in who I was and was yet to be. In my beginning was also some divine condescension enmeshed in my humanity, some incarnation. From that day on, in ways that I am still discovering, you could not explain me without reference to my baptism, to the water, the promises, the story, the hands laid upon my head. Criticize what you will about the mode of my baptism — whether or not it should have occurred so early or if there should have been instruction or a different location or more informed intention — you must admit that it worked. Here I am telling the story of the story that was told to me, the story that I did not tell myself, the story that I am still learning to tell — a story named discipleship.

As soon as Luke is done with Jesus's genealogy, the story of Jesus'sministry begins. "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness" (Luke 4:1). Now his work commences. Ministry is a gift of baptism. This gift of water and the word, this act of a descending Holy Spirit, is also an assignment. First the baptismal gifts. Then the baptismal vocation. "Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and ... He began to teach in their synagogues" (Luke 4:14-15).

Yet if you know the story, you know that between his baptism and his ministry in Galilee there is temptation (Luke 4:1-13). In the wilderness, during his forty-day sojourn, the devil offers Jesus some tempting, even noble, alternatives — stones to bread, political power, miracles — all good in themselves. Jesus says no. Even these good works do not fit the ministry to which Jesus has been called. Right at the start, Luke reminds us that ministry is, from the beginning, a choice between God's work and our own. Vocation and temptation seem to go together. If we lack clarity about our proper work, the devil is quite willing to tell us what to do.

Therefore, this book's exploration of ordained leadership assumes the originating baptismal call, then moves to the peculiar nature of the clerical vocation in order to gain clarity about that vocation and its duties. Ministry is both gift and assignment. This reflection upon the ordained life is carried out upon the background of Luke 4:1-12; among pastors it is always possible to get things wrong, temptations abound, and the devil is ever eager to substitute his work for God's.


Ordination: A Theological and Historical Commentary

We search the New Testament in vain for much stress on continuity of structures of Christian leadership. Continuity of faithful witness (2 Tim 2:2) is the main concern. The New Testament sources are notoriously inconclusive on precisely which structures of leadership were in place. Some churches seem to have been led by "bishops" (episkopoi, "overseers"), also called "pastors." In others, there seems to have been a council of "elders" (presbyteroi), with different elders assuming different duties in the congregation. This form of congregational governance surely came out of the synagogue.

These two patterns seem to have merged into one in which bishops presided over a number of congregations, with elders becoming priests who presided over individual churches. What emerges in the time right after the apostolic era, even as early as the Pastoral Letters, is a threefold picture of ministry — bishop, elder (nowhere is "priest," hieros, used by the New Testament to designate a Christian leader), and deacon (diakonos). Deacons were congregational social workers who assisted in the care of those in need within and outside the congregation. But the picture, in the first centuries, was not neat. In many places within his Letters, Paul addresses the problems caused by free-floating evangelists, prophets, healers, and spiritual gurus who wander through the churches. What is significant, in comparison with today's church, is that the early church recognized the possibility of a wide array of leadership gifts.

All present forms of ministry, among both Protestants and Catholics, are considerably more rigid, formalized, and uniform than ministry in the New Testament. In the earliest church, the community showed admirable ability to adapt and to create new forms of leadership to serve new challenges (Acts 6:1-7). Furthermore, there seems to have been spontaneous recognition of the charismata, the spiritual gifts, of those who were called to leadership. In our contemporary ecclesiastical structures, are we in danger of stifling some spiritual gifts? It is certainly true that in the last century the more charismatic and Pentecostal churches were among the first to recognize women as pastors. Paul, whose churches had their share of problems with disordered leadership, still affirms a diversity of gifts for the guidance and upbuilding of the congregation. "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord" (1 Cor 12:4-5).

Who are pastors? What are they for? Those questions are answered when the church makes its leaders — the service of ordination. In these rites, the church says and shows what it believes about its clergy. For twenty centuries the church has called some from among the baptized to serve as leaders. Theological reflection upon these rites reveals much to contemporary pastors about who they are and what the church means when it designates them to lead.

To think about who clergy are and what they are to do, I will use the liturgy for the ordination of bishops in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, from early third-century Rome. Hippolytus gives our first full account of the ordination of a bishop, a presbyter (elder), and a deacon — an account that has been popular as a model for the ordination prayers of subsequent revisions of many ordination rites.


The Ordination of a Bishop in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus

Let the bishop be ordained being in all things without fault chosen by all the people.

And when he has been proposed and found acceptable to all, the people shall assemble on the Lord's day together with the presbytery and such bishops as may attend.

With the agreement of all let the bishops lay hands on him and the presbytery stand in silence.

And all shall keep silence praying in their heart for the descent of the Spirit.

After this one of the bishops present at the request ... of all, laying his hand on him who is ordained bishop, shall pray thus, saying:

"O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all comfort," "Who dwellest on high yet hast respect unto the lowly," "who knowest all things before they come to pass";

Who didst give ordinances unto Thy church "by the Word of Thy grace"; Who "didst foreordain from the beginning" the race of the righteous from Abraham, instituting princes and priests and leaving not Thy sanctuary without ministers; Who from the foundation of the world hast been pleased to be glorified in them whom Thou hast chosen;

And now pour forth that Power which is from Thee of "the princely Spirit" which Thou didst deliver to Thy Beloved Child Jesus Christ, which He bestowed on Thy holy Apostles who established the Church which hallows Thee in every place to the endless glory and praise of Thy Name.

Father "who knowest the hearts ..." grant upon this Thy servant whom Thou hast chosen for the episcopate to feed Thy holy flock and serve as Thine high priest, that he may minister blamelessly by night and day, that he may unceasingly ... propitiate Thy countenance and offer to Thee the gifts of Thy holy church,

And that by the high priestly Spirit he may have authority "to forgive sins" according to Thy command, "to assign lots" according to Thy bidding, to "loose every bond" according to the authority Thou gavest to the Apostles, and that he may please Thee in meekness and a pure heart, "offering" to Thee "a sweet-smelling savour",

Through Thy Child Jesus Christ our Lord, through Whom to Thee be glory, might and praise, to the Father and to the Son with [the] Holy Spirit now ... and world without end. Amen.


The central liturgical gesture for ordination is the laying on of hands (epitithenai tas cheiras), a symbolic act that was probably derived from rabbinic custom (1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). This act both symbolizes the gift of the Holy Spirit and the bestowal of authority by those who have preceded the candidate in ministry. Ministry is interior — the call that a person feels within. And ministry, in the laying on of hands, is shown to be exterior — a public act of the church upon the life of the ordinand.

In Hippolytus's account of the ordination of a bishop, we detect a pattern that was to inform all later rites of ordination in the Western church: (1) the entire community and its presbyters choose the bishop; (2) the candidate must respond in free will; (3) the local congregation tests the candidate's faith to be sure that it is apostolic; (4) episcopal laying on of hands with a prayer for the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) shows that, though the community chooses, this is not solely a congregational choice; (5) the new ministry is interpreted as a gift of the Holy Spirit because of the choice of the community. Little is said in this earliest of ordination rites about alleged special characteristics of the clergy, which were ascribed in later rites. Rather, the church needs leadership, and through God and the church, leadership is given as a gracious bestowal of the Holy Spirit.

Using this prayer and its setting as a basis of thinking about ordination, we make the following observations that are relevant to a theology of ordination:

1. Ordination Is an Act of Christ and His Church

"O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all comfort", "Who dwellest on high yet hast respect unto the lowly," "who knowest all things before they come to pass";

Who didst give ordinances unto Thy church "by the Word of Thy grace"; Who "didst foreordain from the beginning" the race of the righteous from Abraham, instituting princes and priests and leaving not Thy sanctuary without ministers; Who from the foundation of the world hast been pleased to be glorified in them whom Thou hast chosen.


God is called "Father," which signifies a relationship to the Son, and has an office, which is Creator, the one who makes worlds, who sits on high yet reaches down toward the lowly, who created not only the world but also a "race of the righteous" out of nothing, who knows, gives, institutes, and chooses. Thus ordination, in this prayer, is linked to God's creating and ordering of the world. Ordination is a creative act of God, not unlike the creation of the world or the call of Israel, that brings order out of the chaos, a world out of the void.

The prayer is prayed in the presence of the gathered community. The church gathers to thank God for the gift of new leadership and to designate one of its own for ministry to Christ and his church. God gives the gospel, then the church, and then the church's leaders. The logical sequence is significant because pastors serve the church so that the church might better serve the gospel's Lord. That which makes church is the presence of the living Christ. The ecclesia is thus the fulfillment of Christ's promise, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them" (Matt 18:20). Jesus is "Emmanuel," meaning "God is with us" (Matt 1:23). The peculiar way God has deemed to be with us is called the church. "God is really among you" (1 Cor 14:25), Paul exclaimed before one of his congregations. The leaders of the church are subsequent and subservient to the church — the laity — and derive their significance from what Christ has promised and what Christ intends to do in the world through the laos, the people of God. It is not the congregation's clergy, but the congregation, gathered around the table of the Lord, who is the chief manifestation of the presence of Christ in the world. Church is prior to its leadership.

Let the bishop be ordained being in all things without fault chosen by all the people.

And when he has been proposed and found acceptable to all, the people shall assemble on the Lord's day together with the presbytery and such bishops as may attend.

By the second century, a bishop presides at ordinations. Ignatius of Antioch asserting the role of the bishop in the designation of new elders, interprets the bishop's leadership as ensuring the unity and harmony of the church and the continuity of the congregation with the church as a whole. A bishop is an elder, or presbyter, who is designated by the elders to convene and to lead the elders and to symbolize and to work for the unity and harmony, the apostolicity and the catholicity, of the church.

Who didst give ordinances unto Thy church "by the Word of Thy grace"; Who "didst foreordain from the beginning" the race of the righteous from Abraham, instituting princes and priests and leaving not Thy sanctuary without ministers.

The church claims leadership as a gift of God to the church. Jesus chose not to accomplish his work in the world on his own; he appointed the Twelve to aid him. There is no evidence anywhere in the New Testament of communities without leadership. It is theologically impossible for there to be a shortage of priests or a paucity of vocations in the church because of the conviction, so apparent in places like Acts, that God graciously, and sometimes quite surprisingly, provides leaders for the church. Where there is a shortage of leadership, that shortage is probably due more to the unfaithfulness of the church, or to the shortsightedness of those in authority, than to the parsimony of the Holy Spirit, Which Thou didst deliver to Thy Beloved Child Jesus Christ, which He bestowed on Thy holy Apostles who established the Church which hallows Thee in every place to the endless glory and praise of Thy Name.

It was Jesus's nature to delegate and to give away authority, first to his "holy Apostles," then to all whom he called to himself (Acts 2:39).

Leadership in this community is not due to the natural attributes of those who lead, nor primarily due to the adulation of those who follow, but rather due to the gift of Christ who condescends to be present in the lives and deeds of those on whom he bestows this task.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Pastor by William H. Willimon. Copyright © 2016 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

"Preface to the Revised Edition",
"Introduction",
"1. Ordination: Why Pastors?",
"2. Ministry for the Twenty-First Century Images of the Pastor",
"3. The Pastor as Priest: The Leadership of Worship",
"4. The Priest as Pastor: Worship as the Content and Context of Pastoral Care",
"5. The Pastor as Interpreter of Scripture: A People Created by the Word",
"Interlude: The Wonderful Thickness of the Text",
"6. The Pastor as Preacher: Servant of the Word",
"Interlude: Preaching in Acts",
"7. The Pastor as Counselor: Care That Is Christian",
"Interlude: Augustine's Confessions as a Word-Made World",
"8. The Pastor as Teacher: Christian Formation",
"9. The Pastor as Evangelist: Christ Means Change",
"Interlude: Evangelism and the Irresistibility of Jesus",
"10. The Pastor as Prophet: Truth Telling in the Name of Jesus",
"Interlude: Sin in Christian Ministry",
"11. The Pastor as Lead Missionary: Sent",
"12. The Pastor as Leader: The Peculiarity of Christian Leadership",
"Interlude: Failure in Ministry",
"13. The Pastor as Character: Clergy Ethics",
"14. The Pastor as Disciplined Christian: Constancy in Ministry",

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