10 pastoral principles

I’ve been here in Belfast only six months, but there are quite a few things I have learnt here already, praise God. Here, I’ve tried to summarise 10 basic pastoral principles that I’ve been taught or shown. I hope they will be useful.

1.- Keep fighting for Holiness

Don’t assume sanctification becomes easier
Know thyself
Be accountable to at least two other people
Deliberately avoid “tempting” scenarios
Watch life and teaching
Follow the Puritan example: see Satan and hell as very real
Spend as much time in prayer as possible

2.- Don’t abandon your family

3.- Don’t exploit people; don’t be exploited.

4.- Balance preaching-prep with people-time

don’t just share the Gospel, share your life (1 Thess. 2.8)
Time management important: get admin and prep work done, -spend time with people!
Learn to prioritize

5.-Practice what you preach (e.g.- also wash the dishes, serve coffee; don’t think you’re too good to do that work!)

6.- Disciple Christians and train new leaders

7.- Practice Hospitality, and encourage others to do so.

8.- Expect the unexpected: for better or for worse, people will always surprise you

9.- Be compassionate, but carry out discipline

10.- Don’t teach “mere application”, teach and (attempt to) model a world view, a counterculture in direct contrast to the secular and neopagan ideologies that surround us

Any more? Go ahead and discuss in comments.


Beyond Air Guitar

Christ and the Arts: thought about, discussed and practice. Or certainly, that seems to be the attempt, here:

Beyond Air Guitar

A great quote:

In the same way just as God is creative so we are creative. There is no need to justify our creativity. To make art is as human an activity as eating a meal, going to sleep or enjoying being with family. Art is a gift from God, poured lavishly upon us and in making art we fulfil something of our purpose on this earth as human beings.

We are not just free to create, however: we have a mandate. As those made in the image of God we must be creative. Just as we are spiritual, physical, moral, relational and social beings so likewise we are creative. To suppress our creativity is tantamount to denying our humanity. This does not give license to acts of creativity that are irresponsible or harmful. By no means, the gift of creativity is given that we might praise God and bless (bless = enlarge) His creation, including one another.

Here are a few quotes from Chadwick’s book on Augustine, regarding his ecclesiology. Please note how Augustine sees the relationship between the Scriptures, the Sacraments and the Church. A lot of this is a summary of previous posts.

I post on this, because Anglicanism has been called “Reformed Augustianism, (I agree) and I believe Augustine’s views are very close to those of the Magisterial (and english) Reformers, and should be looked at, since it seems most present-day protestant churches have a rather confused ecclesiology.

Very informative, though don’t take this as a “blanket” endorsement (emphasis mine).

Unity, Catholicism and Sacraments

[…] the parables of the kingdom (Matt. 13) taught the in the Lord’s field both wheat and tares should be left until the harvest of the last judgement. Therefore, no scandal could ever be sufficient ground to introduce division and to leave the one Church. […]

Among the signs of a true believer Augustine specified that he would always love the Church, warts and all […] the errors of individual bishops could not bring pollution on a community or upon episcopal succession. The grace of God did not depend for its efficacy on the personal sanctity of the individual minister, but on whether he did what God commanded to be done and thereby showed himself aware that in his sacramental action the whole Church is acting. For every act of the Church is catholic, universal. The sacrament is Christ’s, not the minister’s personal property, and salvation is always and throughout the work of God, not of man. Therefore a sacrament of baptism bestowed by an orthodox but schismatic priest must on no account be repeated. Baptism has stamped the soul with a decisive once-for-all seal, just as Christ died once-for-all to redeem. Admittedly, baptism given in schism could not be fully a means of grace until the recipient had been reconciled to the Church.

Apostolic succession mattered to the African Catholics too, for it was the external form that helped to safeguard the sacred tradition of apostolic teaching and sacraments.

However, in the context of the Donatist controversy note this comment:

Donatist language about the ordained ministry as the supreme guarantee of their sacraments seemed to Augustine to presuppose a much too clericalized notion of the Church. The ministry had a very necessary service to perform. Ordination was a sanctification of the Holy Spirit. It was self-evident that the presidency at the Eucharist should be given to those commissioned by ordination for this work. No one (except heretical sects) dreamt of lay presidency. But Augustine never thought of the Church as consisting in the clergy. The ministry was subordinate, a service. The continuity of the Church in the apostolic faith had its instrument and sign in ministerial order […] when Augustine looked for the authentication of the truth of the gospel he looked to the faith of the universal Church.”


[Augustine] expressly denied that holy Scripture represented the sole medium of divine revelation (S 12.4); but it represented the principle of authority which seemed central to Christian belief in a divinely given way of salvation for an ignorant and lost humanity. The authority of the Bible and Church rested on reciprocal support. Usage in the churches had determined the limits of the canon. Bible texts established the divinely constituted nature of the Church.

He made the observation that many heretics start from a mistaken or partisan interpretation of Scripture and, because they are both clever and proud, are reluctant to correct themselves. “It is part of a catholic disposition to express the wish to accept correction if one is mistaken” (DEP ii.5).”

Henry Chadwick. Augustine (1986, Oxford University Press)

Messy hermeneutics

Cosmin sent me this great quote:

Hermeneutics is not a tidy, administrative process, going from point to point with syllogistic clarity. It meanders. It detours. It waits, sometimes in puzzlement, sometimes in wonder. But always it has a target. The Scriptures are not provided to feed our gossipy curiosity or legislate our barnyard morals: they examine our lives and invite our faith.”

Eugene H. Peterson, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1978 ) p 129

Oh dear…

… I may be going postmill. I’m not 100% sure, but I find Doug Wilson quite convincing, here (right click to save).

But I’ll pray (and think, and read) about it a bit more.

Vocational economics

Here Milton Friedmann talks about greed and ambition as the fundamental driving force behind capitalism and a free society. So can Christians endorse and support Capitalism? I once thought we couldn’t/shouldn’t. However I don’t think so anymore. I really don’t think there is a better alternative system or one that function best with democracy.

Having said that, I do want to humbly propose (though this idea isn’t really mine at all) that the fundamental difference between a Christian’s view of capitalist economy and the secular one is this driving force that Friedmann describes so well in this video. If I’ve understood the puritans correctly, the Christian’s view of social and economic freedom is both delimited and driven by vocation. Maybe we can call this “vocational libertarianism”. Christians should defend libertarian democracies, (while still allowing some role for the state), for while this allows “pagans” to pursue their selfish ambitions, Christians can carry out God’s cultural mandate (Gen 1.28; 2.15) with enough flexibility to pursue their vocation in the world.

This vocation will vary for Christian to Christian, and will include engineering, sciences, economics, arts and sports. But all and everything must be done for the glory of God. As Oliver Barclay has put it, this may mean that Christians will not go up the “ladder of success” as quickly, because they aren’t willing to back-stab co-workers to get ahead (or in the case of sports, for example, take steroids to compete better), but at the same time allows them to genuinely influence those around them, and society as a whole, serving as a social backbone that hopefully can counter-act the current secular backbone that drives most social/economic actions in society and the marketplace.

Examples include economic anomalies like Monopolies. Monopolies actually stifle freedom, by killing competition. This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any large corporations, but rather these should not posses so much control over the marketplace that their power restricts economic freedom, impso facto creating the same problem that large states often do.

At the end of the day, Christian vocation, whatever it may look like, looks for the Lordship of Christ to be recognized in every sphere of life. Here is the real challenge. As we stand in the public square, we call all people to bow before Christ. This includes the “secular watch-dog” that surveys the square (as Doug Wilson has suggested here). There are no exceptions. And there is no neutral ground.

The Covenant in Eden was a covenant of grace. But there seem to be indications that it had a “forward” thrust: there seems to be a cultural mandate (Gen 1.26-28; 2.5, 15) of expansion, of subduing, of populating, of working and keeping and of creativity (Gen 2.19, 20). Man participates by God’s grace (2.19) in the creative task, and “thrust” cycle of work isn’t endlessly cyclical, but has an end goal of rest, reflecting God established creative work (Gen 2.2, 3; cf. Ex. 20.9-11).

It is interesting to think also that if Adam and Eve had accepted God’s invitation to “eat” from the trees (including the “tree of life”) they would’ve have learnt about “good and Evil” anyways, but on God’s terms. The two trees therefore seem to have a pedagogical and A & E would have presumable moved on and grown in knowledge of God, of themselves and of the world.

After the fall, God’s choice not to ultimately and finally destroy the world (for now) seems to be based on His commitment to creation, and His choice to promise redemption (in the promise of the garden and then to Abraham) are a reflection of God’s creation-commitment (covenant), while at the same time, His commitment to His Holy-Self must mean the evil must be punished and dealt with.

Israel is faced with the same choice as A & E in the garden, as seen in Deut. 30.19: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live…”

Israel chooses death, and indeed Exile is surely a national death, as it is the covenant curse (predicted as well in Deuteronomy), that is a total reversal of God’s promises of blessing. They are sent “out of Canaan” just as A & E are sent “out of Eden”.

But God is commited, bound to His creation and His purposes through creation, and therefore commited unconditionally to Israel as an extension of His salvific (recreational) purposes, despite Israel, like a microcosm of the larger world, “being in Adam”.

God Himself must come down and do something. He comes in Jesus Christ.

Christ takes on the obedience and role that Adam and Israel should have carried out but failed. And Jesus suffers the death that all deserved for sin. But Resurrection is a reminder of God’s fulfillment of His covenant promises, of His commitment to Himself and to His creation. The resurrected Jesus is the new Adam, the new Israel, redefined and recreated around Himself.

Anyone who has faith in Christ, who has been baptized in Him is “a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5.17). The new Israel of God, is that who is a new creation in Christ, no longer those wo are part linked to Torah and its signposts (Gal 6.13-15).

Baptism and Faith divides the outside, decaying world of “uncreation” from the first fruits of the New Creation (” Thess 2.13), the Church, a living breathing “Now-and-not-yet” community, living in fellowship, formed and molded by the Word (taughted and enacted), prayer and worship (Col. 3.16).

And the end goal, when Christ returns will be completely unveiled. The heavenly Jerusalem, coming down to earth. The climax of the story: from garden to city.