December 20, 2014

Update: Tod Bolsinger thinks now is not the time for “chaplain” pastors

Tod Bolsinger disagrees with Mark Galli.

In a post on his blog, Bolsinger writes, “We Need Chaplains…Just not More Of Them…Not Now.”

He says he is right there with Galli when it comes to critiquing the megachurch model and the corporate-style leadership such congregations have. “If leader means “someone who makes the organization grow in numbers, dollars and reputation,” it is a deficient definition indeed,” Bolsinger writes. He also strongly agrees that we need pastors who are spiritually sensitive.

But he is not with Galli in endorsing the “chaplain” model.

Why? Tod Bolsinger thinks the traditional “cure of souls” pastor is not adequate to meet “the complexity of the pastoral task in our day.” We live now in a “post-Christendom” world that makes everything different.

Yes, “for centuries, the pastorate was thought to be about the ‘cure of souls’.”  I agree.  That’s the way it USED to be.  During the centuries of Christendom, this was an appropriate and helpful metaphor.  In a culture where Christianity was in the cultural center, “chaplain” or even “pastor” was a crucial component for keeping powers-that-be attuned to the word of God and the way of Jesus when other cultural forces were present to lead us into temptation and conformity with “the world”.

But increasingly, this is not the mission of the church today. In a post-Christendom context, the metaphor of pastor as healer, chaplain, or curer of souls is inadequate to the task and literally killing the church.  Churches that continue to cling to a Christendom context and expectation for pastors (as seen mostly in mainline churches like my own) are dramatically in decline and becoming increasingly irrelevant to the changing cultural contexts that are far more like a mission field in the first century than the cultural contexts of the most recent past centuries for which Galli (and most of us, frankly—even me) pine nostalgically.

In the light of our historical and cultural context, Bolsinger advocates that we embrace the Missional Movement, with its understanding of the pastor “as the leader of a people in mission.”

In this post-Christendom context, the congregation, not the pastor, is the embodiment of Jesus (literally “the body of Christ”).  The congregation, not the pastor, is the true ‘healer of souls’ going into the world to demonstrate and proclaim the reign of God.  The laity (that is the whole people of God), not just the pastor, is the prophetic voice to power in boardrooms, courtrooms, and classrooms.  The Church, not just particular Christians, is the presence of God, the temple of the Spirit and corporately, communally and contextually—the manifold witness of God to the particular locales of God’s world.

I have a lot of sympathy for what Bolsinger is saying here. Christian churches of every kind have missional issues.

Long before today’s “Missional Movement,” there have been movements in the church to equip the laity for service, help them discover their spiritual gifts, engage them in active ministry, and set them free to be salt and light in the world. I’ve heard this song sung in 70’s folk-rock style, 80’s electronica, 90’s grunge, and in today’s, well, whatever today’s music is.

And please let me affirm: I truly respect and like what I see happening in many places where a true spirit of mission is capturing people’s hearts and leading them into sacrificial service. I have been critical of the church for being separated from the world in all the wrong ways, in building a “temple” mentality, practicing what Michael Spencer called “Mere Churchianity,” and failing to engage with our neighbors in the name of Christ. The “missional” issue was one of the reasons I became disenchanted with evangelicalism. It is one of the reasons the Lutheran teaching on “vocation” resonates so strongly with me.

In May of 2010, I wrote:

The problem with much contemporary American evangelicalism is that it has created an alternate “kingdom,” one which is OF the world but not IN the world (the opposite of what Jesus intended). The freedom and prosperity we enjoy in this country has allowed us to withdraw from meaningful interaction with our neighbors in the context of real life situations so that we might spend time in “Christian” pursuits.

Churches are organized to satisfy this centripetal impulse. Life for many American Christians revolves around the “temple” and its program of activities for all ages and interests. It seems that the purpose of the church is to provide what Luther called a “roses and lilies” experience for people that protects them from the harsh realities of the world and the challenges of learning to relate authentically with those who don’t share our faith.

This pattern is “of the world” because it grows directly out of the American suburban ethos. Suburban living is about comfort, security, and prosperity. The modern evangelical movement has capitalized on these desires by providing superbly outfitted temples that cater to the consumerist cravings of their congregations. It provides “safe places” where parents can be assured that they and their children will never have to rub shoulders with pagans, never be disturbed by ideas or concepts that challenge their Sunday School faith, and never have to deal with the uncomfortable realities that live next door.

Yes. Churches need to be more missional. Yes. Pastors need to provide a degree of leadership to help their congregations burst the Christian bubble and get meaningfully involved in their world. However, what I can’t accept in Tod Bolsinger’s argument is that somehow, the means by which we (pastors, in particular) most effectively provide the care and spiritual formation that will enable missional living has changed.

In my own work as a chaplain, I have come to appreciate more than ever before the power of personal, face-to-face ministry and the effects of that, which seem to multiply exponentially when we simply engage in humble, “chaplain-like” service to our neighbors.

Bolsinger seems to suggest that simple servants can’t cut it today because the world has changed. But I have to say it again: WHO is our model for ministry? If it’s Jesus, then I see a Gospel servant who changed the world by working personally, humbly, and in relative obscurity in a world long before anything like Christendom ever existed. And if it’s the apostles, then they did the same. They were “missional,” of course, going to the ends of the earth, but everywhere they went their work was simple, house to house and face to face, and energized by a servant approach and willingness to suffer. The Cross was their paradigm, plain and simple (see 1Cor 2:1-5).

I don’t care if we live in the first century, the tenth, or the twenty-first, the job of a “pastor” (shepherd) will always be to take care of sheep by feeding them, protecting them, nurturing them, tending them when they are sick and injured, and leading them on paths that they sometimes don’t want to take. It is intensely personal, hard, dirty, often repugnant work.

How come I never hear that last sentence when I hear about “new paradigms” for pastoral ministry?

Good Samaritan, G.F. Watts

Honestly, I’m afraid of “Missionalism.” Read Gordon MacDonald’s fine piece in Leadership for an excellent examination of the subject. He calls missionalism “a leader’s disease,” and warns us, “Like a common cold that begins with a small cough, missionalism catches on in a leader’s life and seems at first so inconsequential. But let this disease catch hold and you are likely to have bodies strewn all over the place, the leader’s and some of the leader’s followers.” This disease MacDonald so deftly describes is pandemic in church leadership today. It’s the next “wave of the Spirit,” apparently, and they don’t want to miss it.

This is not the place to get into all of that; I simply want to make one comment in response to Tod Bolsinger’s post. What I fear about all this talk regarding “Missional” Christianity and “new paradigms” to meet “post-Christendom” realities, is that we are simply replacing one set of corporate principles with another.

Older, 20th century “corporate” paradigms adopted by the church were established when large post-WWII corporations dominated the landscape and their suit-wearing executives still walked the earth. You know the model. It’s the one all the dying people I visit as a hospice chaplain used to work for back in the day. Back when it was cars that rusted in the “Rust Belt,” not the factories that made them.

In today’s outsourced, globalized internet age, “new paradigms” have emerged. In recent years our corporate “hero” has been the young entrepreneur with “vision” who seeks to “empower” vast numbers of people by “equipping” them through personal computers, tech devices, and continual and better access to information and data. These visionaries have a dream for building “community” through social media. They have a social conscience, value creativity, participatory processes, diversity, and they tend to foster de-centralized organizational structures. They are striving to “transform” the world.

Hey, guess what? Sounds like the “missional” church program we’re now being sold! The spiritual glaze can’t hide the corporate model beneath.

Just listen to Tod Bolsinger:

I believe [the new paradigm of pastoral leadership] will be more apostolic than chaplaincy, more about cultivating worshipping missional learning communities (isn’t that what a church of “disciples” really is?), than managing a vender of religious services, or providing private spiritual counsel.  It will be both personal and communal; it will be both liturgical and public.  It will be complex, holistic, rooted in and expressed differently in every particular context.  It will be about organizational leadership that is organic.  And it will be in every way about transformation.

In other words, it won’t be Mayberry. It won’t be General Motors. It will be Apple. It will be Facebook. It will be Twitter.

Meanwhile, my neighbor still lies bleeding by the side of the road.

Comments

  1. Yeah, everyone’s gotta put in a pitch for their own favorite ecclesiastical model. While we’re at it, any Free Church folks want to plug democracy, or any Catholics want to stand up for an accountable hierarchy with strong roots?

    I get what the missional folks are about: Every Christian a priest, and everyone ministering to one another and the world, rather than a severely overworked and burnt-out head pastor only ministering to the church members. I agree with it, too. But don’t they essentially want every Christian to be a chaplain for the lost? Isn’t Bolsinger’s disagreement really on who the chaplain is supposed to be?

    • Exactly K.W. !

      I wonder if one of the reasons this doensn’t happen (all of us being taught to be chaplains) is that leadership wants to be considered a specialist and by doing so remain important instead of working themselves out of a job.

    • I would hope that not just the Free Church (whatever that is) would “plug democracy.”

      A lot of this seems to be about titles. Is there any magic in the title “priest”? Sure, if you’re a Catholic, but for the most Christians this wouldn’t apply. We should all (not just clergy) be helping people. We should all be studying the Bible. Sure, some people are better at academic stuff, and we should respect that, but there’s no reason to set them up on a pedestal over common folks.

      To me the gospel is all about caring, and being a friend. All this talk of chaplains and pastors makes me think that some people would rather pay people to be their friend (or other people’s friend), and avoid the hard work of having a real human relationship. (Oh sure, you can be friends with the priest, but it’s ridiculous to expect everybody to be his friend–then you could only have tiny churches.)

      • Gail: Indeed it is a title thing, and if you can dodge the title you can dodge the responsibility.

        [As for whatever the Free Church is, I grew up in one. Various American denominations are “free” in that they are largely independent of their denominational officials, and are run democratically: Members elect an oversight board, which hires a senior pastor as its chairman. Sounds ideal, considering how much we Americans value democracy. But sometimes, believe you me, it leads a church as much astray as an individual leader would.]

  2. I’m all for the work that some of the missional types are doing. My concern is, though, that with all their good works, the emphasis is taken off what Christ has done for us and placed back on what we are doing for God. The result can quite often be the exact opposite of the “healer of souls.” I’d sooner have it the old fashioned way. If we don’t first offer forgiveness of sins and healing of souls, all and any missional activity is a cause for its own sake, a clanging gong. No amount of missional deeds can bring spiritual restoration, but the soul in communion with God does them naturally. In theory.

  3. I think it is interesting that Bolsinger states that the decline of the “mainline” church is due to the chaplain model of pastor.

    “In a post-Christendom context, the metaphor of pastor as healer, chaplain, or curer of souls is inadequate to the task and literally killing the church. Churches that continue to cling to a Christendom context and expectation for pastors (as seen mostly in mainline churches like my own) are dramatically in decline and becoming increasingly irrelevant….”

    There are many reasons for the decline of the “mainline” but pastors as “healer, chaplain, or curer of souls” is not one of them.

    • Yeah, I am sure that many are fleeing their churches because the pastor has a warm and tender heart for the hurting, and all that visiting and talking to people keeps them from their REAL mission of “developing new paradigms for mission enpowerment and leadership”…….HORSE-HOCKEY!

    • David Cornwell says:

      The decline in mainline churches isn’t caused by this metaphor. It’s a combination of factors. Actually an entire paper could be written about the reasons. And just because they are mainline doesn’t mean they are doing the traditional task in a very good way.

  4. And Bolsinger’s model disregards the fact that people very frequently NEED comfort and pastoral care. I think you’re onto something big there when you say that the emphasis is placed on what we’re doing for God. Really, could any of us function at all without grace? (Rhetorical question!) The epistles repeatedly call on us to encourage each other in love; that applies to all Christians, but surely the pastor isn’t exempt!

    The idea of empowered, decentralized mission cells ignores the fact that people aren’t clockwork. The model assumes that the church members are going to be high-powered, motivated people who get their weekly update brief and then charge out to carry out the mission. What about people who just aren’t? People who are dealing with grief or worry or shame or any of the other messy problems get left out in the cold – hey, that sounds suspiciously like the mega-church model that we are trying to get away from . . .

    • When I said, “I think you’re onto something big there when you say that the emphasis is placed on what we’re doing for God,” I was referring to Miguel’s post above.

  5. It’s mind-boggling that Bolsinger thinks that what pastors used to do is “managing a vender of religious services,” according to the quotation CM included above. Perhaps he’s never known a real pastor.

  6. I feel like you all are missing the point. (or maybe I am). The point I got from Bolsinger’s statement was not that Pastors or chaplains have done a bad job, it was that the people don’t look to them in our culture like they once did. In “Post-Christendom”, people do not auto-maticaly go to a chaplain or pastor, they go somewhere else. You can be a great pastor in a “Christendom” model but people may not seek you out. (if they should seek you out is a different story).
    peace.

    • Brian, and I think you are missing my point. First of all, I question Bolsinger’s historical analysis. I’m not sure there ever was a “Christendom” in which people looked to the pastor. If there was it was hundreds of years ago and probably only in certain communities. Second, no one is denying that the church and the ministry needs to be more missional, by which I mean that we need to be going into the world and not just expecting the world to come to us. My gripe is with his suggestion that we need a new “model” when Jesus and the apostles show us all we need to know about functioning in a non-Christian culture and that it is not enough to be a humble servant, one must somehow be a “transformational leader” to get the job done.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Bolsinger clearly has an overly rosy image of the past. Luther found that the laity was virtually entirely ignorant of Christianity, and the clergy only slightly more educated. These groups respectively are why he wrote the Small and Large Catechisms. I suspect he also has an overly pessimistic image of Christianity’s place in modern American culture: the fish don’t notice the water phenomenon.

        Mostly, though, this looks to me like a watered down version of the problem with the “seeker friendly” church: lots of effort at getting people in the front door, with no idea how to keep them from going out the back.

    • people do not auto-maticaly go to a chaplain or pastor, they go somewhere else.

      BrianK-

      I wrote about this on the previous post. You know when I was having my spiritual meltdown with problems piling upon each other, I trad to meet with a pastor. I couldn’t as he said he could not do that in person but that he would be willing to talk over the phone. Now if faith would have gone differently for me I don’t know if I would have walked away. I’d still be willing to try and struggle with it inside a chruch. But in my case it wasn’t meant to be….

    • Certainly, briank, the duty of each of us in our own congregations is to be the body of Christ in the world and to engage those outside our own circle and to support and serve those within.

      But the model that Mr. Bolsinger is suggesting seems to me that it could easily degenerate into the pastor being the team leader who hands out the sheet with the Top Ten Selling Points on it, says to people “Okay, you’ve done the ten-week study, now go out and get them!”

      And then what happens? Each of us reels in a fish with our carefully-selected killer verses, gets them to join, starts them on the ten-week course and hands them the list of points to go out and reel in fish of their own?

      And what then? Who is being the shepherd to the sheep? Who is doing the work of healing, consoling and leading? Once you get all those new faces in the pews, what do you do with them?

    • Maybe I don’t know what “missional” means?? It seems to make everyone here believe it is “seeker friendly” models of church. If that is the case, I’m against it, but when he wrote:

      “In this post-Christendom context, the congregation, not the pastor, is the embodiment of Jesus (literally “the body of Christ”). The congregation, not the pastor, is the true ‘healer of souls’ going into the world to demonstrate and proclaim the reign of God. The laity (that is the whole people of God), not just the pastor, is the prophetic voice to power in boardrooms, courtrooms, and classrooms. The Church, not just particular Christians, is the presence of God, the temple of the Spirit and corporately, communally and contextually—the manifold witness of God to the particular locales of God’s world.”

      This is very important to me. I love Eugene Peterson’s & Chap. Mike’s pastor/Chaplain types –(so does Mr. Bolsinger) — That is what a Pastor should do. I’m not saying the Pastor’s should do more. They should shepherd their sheep. The problem I see in today’s church is that the congregations want the pastor to be all things to everybody. We ask the pastor to spoon feed us & forget that WE are the Body of Christ, WE are his disciples! Pastors should be healers, both for the world & the congregation,but it can be too much to ask of any one man or profession.

  7. Danielle79 says:

    I am not too sure what the “missional” lingo is supposed to mean. I’ve seen it in books; I don’t know what it looks like in practice.

    Bolsinger has a point if he’s equating the chaplain model with a mindset in which the pastor is charged with taking care of a set group of parishioners, and more or less is the only person in the congregation providing the “care of souls.” Naturally, the point of the care of souls is to create active disciples of Christ who are doing Christ’s work. The pastor can’t do that for everybody, although I do think he has a special role within the congregation — for one thing, it’s what he’s hired to do (we hope). For another, oftentimes people are more likely to trust a pastor than they are a random volunteer.

    I am less sympathetic with the idea–if this is what the missional folks mean–that somehow the mission of the pastor and active laypeople is now fundamentally different. The hurting, the poor, and the lost are still here. The church is supposed to be reaching out in practical love to the world and caring for the souls of those in Christ’s body. Churches may need to try a few new tricks to get attention because (as briack notes above) people don’t automatically go to churches anymore for help. Frankly, they suspect immanent manipulation (which we all know is not an unfounded concern). More commonly, they don’t even know that churches have resources to help them. Perhaps churches now need clear signs under the worship services saying “free food, free counseling”.

    Of course, for that plan to work out, you’d need a pastor who wants to counsel people, and cadre of volunteers following the pastor’s model. Which gets us straight back to the gospels again… at present, its harder to find a warm bed or someone to listen to you than it is to find a power-point presentation.

  8. One more Mike says:

    “In a post-Christendom context, the metaphor of pastor as healer, chaplain, or curer of souls is inadequate to the task and literally killing the church. ”

    If that’s true, Mr. Bolsingers “church” needs to die. I can’t get over how eat up these guys are with their models and paradigms. They’re reading their own press and slapping themselves on the back at how smart they are. The corporate model which has no room for many more of us in our business lives has no room for us in our spiritual lives either. We’re becoming spiritual enterprenuers since we don’t fit their model any more. If I could find a bartender over 50 years old close to where I live, I’d have all my “pastoral needs” met and Chaplain Mike is already my chaplain!

    • They’re reading their own press and slapping themselves on the back at how smart they are.

      My friend Paul puts this differently: They are drinking their own bathwater

  9. Good prophetic word towards my context.

    I think I’m gifted and wired as a “chaplain,” and my heart is to minister that way both inside and outside the boundaries of the church. Missionially, so to speak. For me it’s really not that complicated.

    In my seminary (which has a strong missions bent), the professors are often frustrated as many students, young and old, are not very likely to cross social boundaries to reach out to their neighbor. Many seem to be looking to a degree to bump them up to the next level within their church setting. You should have seen some reactions when we’ve done some field studies when the professors told us to actually go talk to and engage people! So I can see why Bolsinger writes the way he does, but it’s an overreaction. Chaplains have much to offer towards mission.

    We should go after our local communities in service and evangelism with everything we’ve got, and part of the appeal should be our love for one another as a church. People will not want to join up with a group that doesn’t not care for its own members, and this will be most evidently reflected in the leadership. I’ve only ever been drawn to churches that have had pastors and elders that have cared for the sheep. Now I hope to pay it forward.

    • ugh, pardon the double negative, it’s early for me.

    • “My heart is to minister that way both inside and outside the boundaries of the church. Missionially, so to speak.”

      Exactly! Very well put.

    • the professors are often frustrated as many students, young and old, are not very likely to cross social boundaries to reach out to their neighbor.

      Sean-

      This is an example of how many Christians have become infected with American culture. We Americans value our pride, independence, and space. We become uncomfortable about crossing over into another person’s space. Your post identifies this well..

  10. “As the world changes, denominations, seminaries, thought-institutions and and voices of influence like Christianity Today need to continually affirm and support a changing paradigm of pastoral leadership” (emphasis original).

    So, “missional” was the paradigm two days ago, what’s today’s paradigm? This hour’s? How am I to keep up?!

  11. “The congregation, not the pastor, is the true ‘healer of souls’ going into the world to demonstrate and proclaim the reign of God.”

    OK, but doesn’t that mean that the pastor should be leading by setting the example? Doesn’t Paul advise both Timothy and Titus to set the example to the believers under their care? In Philippians, when talking about pressing on to achieve the prize, doesn’t Paul call on them to follow his own example? If the pastor isn’t primarily concerned with caring for people, why would the congregation take that up?

    “We need pastors (and frankly leaders in every sector of society) who are continually being transformed who can lead individuals in their own transformation and communities in communal transformation.”

    Doesn’t this kind of transformation flow from our being healed and reconciled with God? If this is not the root of transformation, then how is Christianity not just another program for self-improvement / community-improvement? Based on this and the above quote, it sounds like pastors should be worried about their own spiritual growth and social engineering a community of people concerned only about their own spiritual growth. Honestly, I’d take a pastor concerned with caring about people and loving people and teaching his congregation to do the same over Bolsinger’s vision of a pastor any day.

  12. Along the same lines, I think we need fewer “teaching” educators, fewer “healing” physicians and nurses, and fewer litigating lawyers (ok, maybe that last one is a good idea!)

  13. Clay Knick says:

    I read “missional” stuff and reach for the Tylenol. Of course we are missional: we’re the church!

  14. This reminds me of a small ministry conference/retreat I was at somewhere in the last 10 years where one of the leaders was somehow on the topic of Chaplains and said, “Do you know what a chaplain is? (answers his own question), a chaplain is a guy who can’t make it as a Pastor.”

    • I respond here out of my own experience of 21 years as parish pastor and the last 15 as hospital chaplain, with an additonal couple years thrown in the middle as chaplain in a medium security state prison. I have learned the role of chaplain is a powerless role in human institutions. In the parish, I was the agenda-setter, while in the prison, security sets the agenda and in the hospital, it is the doctors. By the way, if you don’t believe the doctors set the agenda, just ask them.
      But this is not an American or evangelical thing, but a human reality. Not every ecclesiastical boogeyman is found in evangelical closets. I have a colleague who went to Romania to meet with hospital chaplains and found out the chaplain is considered second class among the clergy there, as well. Only the clergy who couldn’t make it in the parish were sent to be a chaplain.
      I think such a view goes back into the middle ages when a chaplain was one who served at the beck and call of the nobleman and his family and had no power or freedom outside that role. I think the power in the role of chaplain is found in relationships, which in my relational theological view, is most important anyway. But not all share that view.
      I do believe it is naive to think all the pastor has to do is give good pastoral care and the church will survive and thrive. In my experience, as much as I wanted that to be, that is simply not true. The church, inspite of all of our theoretical concepts of it, is a human institution and needs the qualities of leadership that any human institiution needs. It would be simplistic for the people in my hospital to decide to only take care of sick people and give no attention to development, and planning and healthcare leadership to the community. It would not be long before they would be unable to take care of anyone.
      By the way, I do not think there is a mainline-evangelical divide here. I observe all kinds of pastors giving pastoral care and I see as many mainline pastors neglecting that role as I see evangelical pastors giving inadequate pastoral care. I think it is a matter of giftedness, rather than theological stance. If you are gifted in this area, you cannot keep from doing pastoral care. If you are not, you can find all kinds to reasons not be do it.

      • Perhaps it’s the new definition of leadership: meeting metrics, doing less with more, delegation. The best leaders I’ve seen are gifted with people, plain and simple. They care about the people under their responsibility. They’re also excellent models of carrying out their vision, all the while supporting their people by clearing away the brambles in their path and doctoring up skinned knees.

  15. David Cornwell says:

    Bolsinger said ” the congregation, not the pastor, is the embodiment of Jesus (literally “the body of Christ”). The congregation, not the pastor, is the true ‘healer of souls’ going into the world to demonstrate and proclaim the reign of God. ”

    The congregation will never do this unless it is modeled by the pastor.

    It’s almost as if he is saying that Jesus should come back and show us something else for our new and more complex culture. What he modeled and taught those fishermen just won’t work in a culture as sophisticated as ours.

    Our complicated society is home to those who at core are lonely, depressed, lost, sick, hungry, and in prison. People already feel as though they are only a cog in a machine with little control over outcomes. If the church falls into the same trap, the way out is going to be awfully painful.

    One question: Is the church that follows these new paradigms actually bringing healing to anyone? From some of the things I’m hearing here, it sounds like in many cases it simply adds to the load that one carries.

    • The congregation will never do this unless it is modeled by the pastor.

      THIS.

      Can’t speak for anyone but me, but when I’ve seen this kind of gobbledegook dished up, it smelled like an excuse to not do the really dirty work of being a shepherd. Of course the leader dishing it up didn’t see it that way.

  16. You make some good points CM. Some really good points. The problem with Bolsinger’s approach is that it makes people disposable, with a rotating door in the process. By being focused on growth and being “missional” people is that they get sucked in and are in this environment where they wither and they leave. I would be curious to know the rate of turnover in this type of culture. From the time they enter until the time they exit how long is that on average…? 2 years? 3 Maybe? I don’t know….

    In the time they spend there life happens. Many of the pastors I have seen look more fit to be head of corporations or businesses than to lead a church. I have to think that a traditional, tried and true pastor is hard work. Funerals, death, disease, mental health crisis, layoffs, addictions, marriages in crisis, kids who disappear because they are entangled with drugs, etc.. THAT is life and that is what many pastors in today’s churches step back from and exclude themselves from pasturing, crying and comforting. Again I don’t understand why many of these churches expect to be taken seriously.

    You know when my grandmother died in Montana in October of 2009 I’m glad she was Irish Catholic. Toward the end of her life her parish priest came by and visited her in her apartment. He checked on her mental health, held conversations and brought her communion. THAT is what a pastor does, his actions spoke louder than words. And in my eyes I still have warm thoughts for this one particular parish priest in SW Montana.

    But here is another thought as well….is the fundagelical church today skipping out on love? Are they missing opportunities to show love to the world today by not being there at the times when people need it? Have they become so obsessed with growth that in the process they became blind and have missed out on opportunities right in front of them.

    Fundagelical Christianity is so screwed up….

    • Maybe it’s based on the belief that if you just have enough faith, all will work out, i.e. prosperity gospel.

  17. This disagreement seems to be the Priest vs. Prophet fight.
    We need them both. but mostly we need Jesus, the perfect Priest, Prophet, & King of Kings.
    Peace.

  18. Good points have been made by all.

    I’m not comfortable with the constant push to do something new and different. How different are people now than they were in the first century. One of the miracles of Scripture is that it is timeless. The message it gives and the model it gives are both timeless.

    Forget Apple. Forget the lusting after new territory and new frontiers. We need to focus more on settlement; Americans have been obsessed with going somewhere else since the first day the white man landed here. We need people who are willing to settle and say, “This is the place.” And then they need to be devoted to their place so that people can continue to live there and make it worthwhile long after the consumer goods are gone.

  19. Post-Christian by definition means non-Christian, but it was a non-Christian culture the Apostles and early church was dealing with. We get focused on culture and cultural changes but in all cultures a fallen human being, redeemed or not, is a fallen human being and the model of ministry, if you want to call it that, used in the NT by Jesus and the Apostles is a model that cuts across cultural lines and cultural changes. It is a “model” founded in an understanding of the universal human condition; a condition that cuts across all cultures. It is at this point I find Bolsinger’s premise to be faulty,,,, I am not saying we can be culturally insensitive, but niether can we be so culturally sensitve we lose sight of the universal human condition. I also challange the premise that a “chaplian” model is at cross purposes with missional intent. That IMHO is a false dichotomy, and Bolsinger’s description of the chaplain is a straw man…

  20. Randy Thompson says:

    I’ve pretty much stopped reading anything with the following words in the title: “Leadership,” “Post-Modern,” “Missional,” and “Church.” (I suspect there are other words I could add to the list, but my annoyance hasn’t yet caught up completely with my consciousness.)

    Havng said that. . .

    “Missional” is paying attention to the person God puts right in front of you.

    “Church” is the odd, ragtag group of Christians the Lord has joined me to, often against our better judgment. We should note Groucho Marx’s wonderful line: “I don’t know if I want to be part of any organization that would have someone like me as a member.”

    “Leadership” is following Jesus with humility and not looking around to see if anyone is there, following you.

    “Post-Modern” is the current widow-making buzz brought to us by the zeitgeist. By the time you get around to labeling what’s going on around you, it’s moved on and become something else, and your label has only historical value at best. In a sense, the zeitgeist always arrives in the past tense.

  21. Caring for people equals yielding to the temptation of cultural conformity? I suppose cultural war equals cultural non-conformity. This is a resurgence of fundamentalism, which can’t see where it is joined at the hip with modernism.

  22. Tod posted a response to Eugene Petersen last year in a similar vein, and I responded that the title Executive Pastor is an oxymoron. http://bolsinger.blogs.com/weblog/2010/10/daring-to-differ-with-eugene-peterson-and-putting-the-organic-back-in-the-organizational.html

  23. The sign over the door as you leave our church says you are now entering the mission field. The current building is at least 40 years old, so I don’t understand how all this missional talk is new. My main response to this post is, how is your congregation going to function in all those missional roles if they are not first healed?

    Next point, can we please admit we need one another? The gung-ho get them in the door pastor will do well if an only if he is surrounded by staff and lay leaders who include those who can actually teach and bring healing to the broken people he draws in. Likewise, a pastor who really wants to spend most of his time giving wise counsel and really getting to know his congregation needs some folks around him who can draw others in. We are not all the same and that’s a good thing!

  24. My approach to ministry is probably more chaplain-like than anything else. My challenge is simply to be a chaplain to those outside the church as well as to those inside it.

  25. I guess I can hear what Bolsinger is trying to say, but I’m skeptical of anyone who claims that the time period we’re living in is qualitatively different from the past.