For the past few days I’ve been co-leading a retreat with my friend Trevor Hudson. It is a wonderful experience to be with the ministers. So far I’m struck by a few things, the first is the wonderful diversity represented in this circuit of the Methodist Church South Africa.
Last year this time I was graciously invited to speak at the NG-kerk synod and there was no sign of any diversity. The second thing that strikes me is the immense needs of pastors today. I told Trevor yesterday that pastors are an endangered species.
The theme for our retreat is “Following Jesus as our pastor”. We are walking through the events of Jesus’ baptism, temptation, choosing His disciples, the transfiguration, Palm Sunday, the crucifixion and resurrection. In these few days we are trying to recapture our pastoral imaginations. Immersing ourselves again in the cadence and rhythm of the gospel shape of Jesus’ ministry.
Yesterday we started with Jesus’ beginning event of being baptized. During which he heard that wonderful blessing, “This is my beloved son with whom I am pleased”. Trevor lead us into a reaffirmation of our belovedness.
Pastoral ministry is initiated in a deep sense of an identity that is solidified in God’s love.
In the second session I talked about ‘The tempted pastor’. I joked with the group (in all seriousness) that this is a very easy topic for me – for I sense the temptations of ministry on a daily basis. What do you think are the temptations pastors face? I’m not just thinking of personal morality issues but more about vocational temptations.
I asked a few friends and got some interesting responses and I would love to here some of your thoughts on this.
When we read through Matthew 4:1-11 we see that Jesus’ identity as the beloved is challenged in the temptation that the Spirit lead him towards (I know this is mysterious). Satan starts the first two temptations with the phrases “If you are the Son of God”. Prove your belovedness. That is the essence of these temptations … ways in which we are challenged to shift the foundation of our identity from God to activities.
First then, turning stones into bread. I call this the temptation of Consumerism
This past weekend Claypot had a very practical experience with this temptation. During the week we realized that no-one offered to serve the community by ministering to the children. Earlier in the year I told the community that if this happens, I will do it and there will be no feeding – no sermon. Trying to be a doer of my word, I arrived on Sunday and after the singing I gathered the children and left the adults to themselves.
Our leaders tell me that what happened inside of the congregation for the next hour or so, was one of the most fruitful moments in the last few years. They talked about co-dependancy, becoming a consumer community and how we’re not perfect. Then they prayed and made a resolute decision to ‘live by every word that comes from the mouth of God’.
Needless to say, this week I got a lot of emails … all of them positive … people’s needs are bigger than their wants. Bread is necessary, God is more.