Two models of ministry

Michael Horton, one of our most insightful Christian writers, has a striking article in “Touchstone,” entitled All Crossed Up about two models of ministry and worship. He describes them with this set of dichotomies:

Ordinary Extraordinary
Communal Individualistic
Predictable and Disciplined Spontaneous and “Authentic”
Respectful of office Respectful of persons
Hierarchical Egalitarian
Patient Restless
Receptive Expressive
Mediated Immediate
Wise/Knowledgeable Practical/Intuitive
Custodial/Pastoral Entrepreneurial
Formal Casual
Mature Creative
Traditional Innovative
Deferential Independent

He argues that whereas the Bible and historic Christianity favor the left-hand side, today’s church culture favors the right-hand side.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I would argue that these are false dichotomies. Why can’t we be creative AND mature? After all, we are in the image of a creator. Why can’t we focus on corportate prayer, corporate confession, and corporate worship AND individual prayer, confession, worship? Why can’t predictable be authentic?

    I’ve been to many churches where extemporaneous prayers was considered more authentic than a “canned” prayer. Isn’t that, in part, the function of art? To give words or images to things that are universally human. How is it that poems and greeting cards are able to express our true feelings better that we might be able? When we pray the Psalms are we no less authentic than if we write one ourselves?

    I think that it is interesting in Acts, chapter 2, verse 42 where it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” THE prayers. I don’t know Greek, but it seems to me that they may have been praying a set of prayers.

    Sometimes God does something new! I think we need to be open to the movement of the spirit, but God is also God of order. God is extraordinary, but we find him in our daily prayers, our daily reading of the word and our worship. We find him on mountaintops, but He is present all along the journey.

    This is a God who delivered the captive children of Isreal from the Pharoh. This is the same God of Ressurection Sunday! He does extraoridary, amazing things! He is also called the Rock of Ages. A rock never moves, doesn’t change, it is predictable and solid.

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I would argue that these are false dichotomies. Why can’t we be creative AND mature? After all, we are in the image of a creator. Why can’t we focus on corportate prayer, corporate confession, and corporate worship AND individual prayer, confession, worship? Why can’t predictable be authentic?

    I’ve been to many churches where extemporaneous prayers was considered more authentic than a “canned” prayer. Isn’t that, in part, the function of art? To give words or images to things that are universally human. How is it that poems and greeting cards are able to express our true feelings better that we might be able? When we pray the Psalms are we no less authentic than if we write one ourselves?

    I think that it is interesting in Acts, chapter 2, verse 42 where it says, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” THE prayers. I don’t know Greek, but it seems to me that they may have been praying a set of prayers.

    Sometimes God does something new! I think we need to be open to the movement of the spirit, but God is also God of order. God is extraordinary, but we find him in our daily prayers, our daily reading of the word and our worship. We find him on mountaintops, but He is present all along the journey.

    This is a God who delivered the captive children of Isreal from the Pharoh. This is the same God of Ressurection Sunday! He does extraoridary, amazing things! He is also called the Rock of Ages. A rock never moves, doesn’t change, it is predictable and solid.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    What Sarah says; why didn’t he put this as a comment on your false dichotomies post?

    (though my NKJV doesn’t have the definite article in Acts 2:42 that Sarah refers to….the original Greek might clarify this)

    Moreover, the very (false) dichotomies he draws reveal a profound emphasis on man-centered worship; debating where one should fall on the lines he draws is more or less rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. There is a “hull” of the Scriptures and Counselor that he’s almost entirely neglecting.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    What Sarah says; why didn’t he put this as a comment on your false dichotomies post?

    (though my NKJV doesn’t have the definite article in Acts 2:42 that Sarah refers to….the original Greek might clarify this)

    Moreover, the very (false) dichotomies he draws reveal a profound emphasis on man-centered worship; debating where one should fall on the lines he draws is more or less rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. There is a “hull” of the Scriptures and Counselor that he’s almost entirely neglecting.

  • Another Kerner

    Perhaps, and then again perhaps not, simply reading Michael Horton’s article “All Crossed Up” isolated from his other work may lead some to conclude that the dichotomies he proposes are false.

    I tend to agree with him, understanding that some of the words he selects for the right hand column are used within the framework of a postmodern culture, viewed through the lens of postmodern definitions.

    Those of us who worship in liturgical, sacrmental churches; those of us who have a “theology of worship” put forward in our confessions will tend to grasp Dr. Horton’s assertions and recognize quickly exactly what he is driving at here.

    And I think he is fairly succinct in his explanations.

    At #1: Sarah in Maryland….

    Could you please elaborate for us, explaining what you mean by “Sometimes God does something new” and what you mean by “Being open to the spirit”.

    What does God do that is “new”?

  • Another Kerner

    Perhaps, and then again perhaps not, simply reading Michael Horton’s article “All Crossed Up” isolated from his other work may lead some to conclude that the dichotomies he proposes are false.

    I tend to agree with him, understanding that some of the words he selects for the right hand column are used within the framework of a postmodern culture, viewed through the lens of postmodern definitions.

    Those of us who worship in liturgical, sacrmental churches; those of us who have a “theology of worship” put forward in our confessions will tend to grasp Dr. Horton’s assertions and recognize quickly exactly what he is driving at here.

    And I think he is fairly succinct in his explanations.

    At #1: Sarah in Maryland….

    Could you please elaborate for us, explaining what you mean by “Sometimes God does something new” and what you mean by “Being open to the spirit”.

    What does God do that is “new”?

  • http://maplemountain.blogspot.com/ samuel

    I thought the article was not perfect, but excellent. I passed it on to all the under-shepherds I know. Thanks again, Doc.

  • http://maplemountain.blogspot.com/ samuel

    I thought the article was not perfect, but excellent. I passed it on to all the under-shepherds I know. Thanks again, Doc.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    I have taught you well, my children. Good sensitivity to “false dichotomies.” And yet, are some of these “true dichotomies”? (e.g., communal vs. individualistic; “predictable” worship vs. “spontaneous” worship)

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    I have taught you well, my children. Good sensitivity to “false dichotomies.” And yet, are some of these “true dichotomies”? (e.g., communal vs. individualistic; “predictable” worship vs. “spontaneous” worship)

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I went back and read the article. That’s funny, I wrote out Acts 2:42 before reading the article. Neat. I liked the article very much. I think that the list is handy, but can create false dichotomies just by looking. I see where he is going better after having read it.

    RE: “Sometimes God does something new” and what you mean by “Being open to the spirit”.

    Well, God doesn’t do anything new, per se, but often “new to us” in this time at this place. When was the last time you saw some paralytic walk at a Lutheran church? It isn’t that Lutherans don’t believe that God can do that, we know that He did.

    Please understand that I came from a very “spirit-filled, charismatic” background. Even as a child, I remember saying to the group that we needed to keep things in order, for God is not a God of chaos. Nonetheless, healings, prophecy, dreams, visions, etc. all of that is real and it still happens. (Sadly, there are pretenders out there, but it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t still do these things.)

    I came to the Lutheran church for many reasons. The theology for one. The liturgy is beautiful and filled with scripture. Communion. The focus on the cross and being saved by grace. (I’m getting excited just thinking about it!!!!!) These were things that I learned as a child. We usually met in home churches, as our understanding of the early church. But when I moved to Maryland I wanted to find a church church. I wasn’t comfortable with Baptist grape-juice communion, Evangelical vaccuousness, and I couldn’t get past the pope-thing to become a Catholic. Where could I go that was solid theologically and Beatiful in practice? Lutheran.

    BUT will we build an ark if someone hears from God? Will we shore up grain if someone has a dream? Will we heal the sick, raise the dead? That’s what I mean by “being open to the spirit.”

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    I went back and read the article. That’s funny, I wrote out Acts 2:42 before reading the article. Neat. I liked the article very much. I think that the list is handy, but can create false dichotomies just by looking. I see where he is going better after having read it.

    RE: “Sometimes God does something new” and what you mean by “Being open to the spirit”.

    Well, God doesn’t do anything new, per se, but often “new to us” in this time at this place. When was the last time you saw some paralytic walk at a Lutheran church? It isn’t that Lutherans don’t believe that God can do that, we know that He did.

    Please understand that I came from a very “spirit-filled, charismatic” background. Even as a child, I remember saying to the group that we needed to keep things in order, for God is not a God of chaos. Nonetheless, healings, prophecy, dreams, visions, etc. all of that is real and it still happens. (Sadly, there are pretenders out there, but it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t still do these things.)

    I came to the Lutheran church for many reasons. The theology for one. The liturgy is beautiful and filled with scripture. Communion. The focus on the cross and being saved by grace. (I’m getting excited just thinking about it!!!!!) These were things that I learned as a child. We usually met in home churches, as our understanding of the early church. But when I moved to Maryland I wanted to find a church church. I wasn’t comfortable with Baptist grape-juice communion, Evangelical vaccuousness, and I couldn’t get past the pope-thing to become a Catholic. Where could I go that was solid theologically and Beatiful in practice? Lutheran.

    BUT will we build an ark if someone hears from God? Will we shore up grain if someone has a dream? Will we heal the sick, raise the dead? That’s what I mean by “being open to the spirit.”

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    Oh yeah, and paradox. I love the Lutheran embrace of paradox. simul justus et peccator…

  • http://www.hempelstudios.com Sarah in Maryland

    Oh yeah, and paradox. I love the Lutheran embrace of paradox. simul justus et peccator…

  • Chryst

    Or in our synod’s borrowed parlance, “Maintenance vs. Mission”

    Which is a false dichotomy and misleading characterization with perjorative undertones, IMHO.

  • Chryst

    Or in our synod’s borrowed parlance, “Maintenance vs. Mission”

    Which is a false dichotomy and misleading characterization with perjorative undertones, IMHO.

  • WebMonk

    Maintenance vs Mission is certainly a false dichotomy but it exists anyway.

    I don’t know your synod, but I’ve been in many churches that have a definite “maintenance mode-only” going on. And, while most of the items listed are indeed false dichotomies, I know churches that still hold to the worst constructions of one of the sides, and declare it as the one and only way the Bible says to operate a church as opposed to the other side.

    Suits REQUIRED (literally ask you not to come back unless you wear one) in the name of being “formal”.
    Refusal of ANY restriction on behavior in church in the name of being “expressive”.

    The list goes on. Depending on the connotation, sub-meaning, or extent of any of those terms, they could be a good or bad thing.

    It was good that Horton put the immediate qualifier that the “contrasting” tendencies should not be simplistically identified with good and bad. Indeed, the rest of his article didn’t seem to really deal with the supposed dichotomies he set up, so I suspect that it was an off-the-cuff list, not intended for specific comparison and analysis.

  • WebMonk

    Maintenance vs Mission is certainly a false dichotomy but it exists anyway.

    I don’t know your synod, but I’ve been in many churches that have a definite “maintenance mode-only” going on. And, while most of the items listed are indeed false dichotomies, I know churches that still hold to the worst constructions of one of the sides, and declare it as the one and only way the Bible says to operate a church as opposed to the other side.

    Suits REQUIRED (literally ask you not to come back unless you wear one) in the name of being “formal”.
    Refusal of ANY restriction on behavior in church in the name of being “expressive”.

    The list goes on. Depending on the connotation, sub-meaning, or extent of any of those terms, they could be a good or bad thing.

    It was good that Horton put the immediate qualifier that the “contrasting” tendencies should not be simplistically identified with good and bad. Indeed, the rest of his article didn’t seem to really deal with the supposed dichotomies he set up, so I suspect that it was an off-the-cuff list, not intended for specific comparison and analysis.

  • Another Kerner

    Perhaps. if one is a regular listener to The White Horse Inn and a reader of Horton’s books, one is not so misunderstanding of what he is driving at in his article.
    Although it seems that the plain meaning of his words would be hard to misconstrue.

    “The same ministry that leads us and our children to Christ, in an every deepening communion with Him and His Body often reaches strangers.”

    It seems his contention is simple enough and well expressed.
    He laments “Madison Avenue” techniques and methodology, a la the Charles Finney model of “enthusiastic revivalism” and proposes that, for our consideration, that the Scriptural model which sustains and supports the existing body of Christ is also the model which brings those who were once a far off into the Body of Christ.

    He laments frantic “marketing” of Jesus and asks us to believe that God The Holy Ghost will always point to Christ Alone by Grace Alone through Faith Alone with Scripture Alone as we preach Him crucified, administer the sacraments and teach the young.

    Simply, the Church is the creation of the Word.

    In a forthcoming issue, Horton will address the “Worship Wars”. There *is* a connection.

    As an adult Lutheran convert, once a stranger who was afar off, who fled Rome *and* “American evangelical revivalism” , given faith and joy in the three Solas in Wittenberg, I agree with Horton in “All Crossed Up”.

    It is God The Holy Ghost builds faithful congregations, not the “enthusiasts” of infused grace.

    As Luther suggests:
    “They have swallowed the Holy Ghost, feathers and all”.

  • Another Kerner

    Perhaps. if one is a regular listener to The White Horse Inn and a reader of Horton’s books, one is not so misunderstanding of what he is driving at in his article.
    Although it seems that the plain meaning of his words would be hard to misconstrue.

    “The same ministry that leads us and our children to Christ, in an every deepening communion with Him and His Body often reaches strangers.”

    It seems his contention is simple enough and well expressed.
    He laments “Madison Avenue” techniques and methodology, a la the Charles Finney model of “enthusiastic revivalism” and proposes that, for our consideration, that the Scriptural model which sustains and supports the existing body of Christ is also the model which brings those who were once a far off into the Body of Christ.

    He laments frantic “marketing” of Jesus and asks us to believe that God The Holy Ghost will always point to Christ Alone by Grace Alone through Faith Alone with Scripture Alone as we preach Him crucified, administer the sacraments and teach the young.

    Simply, the Church is the creation of the Word.

    In a forthcoming issue, Horton will address the “Worship Wars”. There *is* a connection.

    As an adult Lutheran convert, once a stranger who was afar off, who fled Rome *and* “American evangelical revivalism” , given faith and joy in the three Solas in Wittenberg, I agree with Horton in “All Crossed Up”.

    It is God The Holy Ghost builds faithful congregations, not the “enthusiasts” of infused grace.

    As Luther suggests:
    “They have swallowed the Holy Ghost, feathers and all”.

  • S Bauer

    I’d like to hear more about this idea that God isn’t doing anything new.

  • S Bauer

    I’d like to hear more about this idea that God isn’t doing anything new.

  • Another Kerner

    It is my understanding that……..

    The canon of Scripture is closed.

    From Genesis to Revelation, it is complete.

    We are apostolic and confessional, trusting in Scripture Alone (one of the three Solas of the Reformation.)
    And Scripture interprets Scripture.

    However, there are not any more genuine “apostles” and or “prophets” who provide *direct* testimony of Jesus Christ today.

    Hebrews 1:1-2

    “God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
    Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by who also he made the worlds…….”

    Scripture alone, Faith Alone by Grace Alone through Christ Alone.

    Christ is our Prophet, Priest and King.

  • Another Kerner

    It is my understanding that……..

    The canon of Scripture is closed.

    From Genesis to Revelation, it is complete.

    We are apostolic and confessional, trusting in Scripture Alone (one of the three Solas of the Reformation.)
    And Scripture interprets Scripture.

    However, there are not any more genuine “apostles” and or “prophets” who provide *direct* testimony of Jesus Christ today.

    Hebrews 1:1-2

    “God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
    Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by who also he made the worlds…….”

    Scripture alone, Faith Alone by Grace Alone through Christ Alone.

    Christ is our Prophet, Priest and King.

  • organshoes

    Do we need to see the paralytic walk to confirm our own faith, or to confirm the object of our faith?
    Is not our own faith enough of a testament?
    To suggest God does not do anything new is not to suggest He doesn’t still perform miracles, and even those through His saints and servants here in time on earth. But that is nothing new, objectively speaking: it’s nothing other than what He’s promised, through the old means of His promise-making, to do. He’s made no new promises, and certainly not undone anything He’s already decreed and done, by saying anything new or different. He does not oppose Himself, change His mind, open things up to a new interpretation, etc.
    Maybe part of Another Kerner’s reaction to the saying is that the Anglican bishop Gene Robinson has used these very words to justify his holding his office not only in spite of his active homosexuality, but, it could be argued, due to it. The Episcopal church in America has chosen to make a statement about homosexuality through making this man a bishop in the church. But, of course, it is the Episcopal church doing something new, and not God.
    ‘God doing something new’ is therefore something of a buzzword, but even without that backdrop, it’s not something to say carelessly, or without explaining what is meant. True, every day is new, and every moment of every day. But, also true that there is nothing new under the sun: no new promise, no new revelation about God or His promise or His plan or His nature. We don’t know everything there is to know about God, but The Great I Am has revealed himself sufficiently.

  • organshoes

    Do we need to see the paralytic walk to confirm our own faith, or to confirm the object of our faith?
    Is not our own faith enough of a testament?
    To suggest God does not do anything new is not to suggest He doesn’t still perform miracles, and even those through His saints and servants here in time on earth. But that is nothing new, objectively speaking: it’s nothing other than what He’s promised, through the old means of His promise-making, to do. He’s made no new promises, and certainly not undone anything He’s already decreed and done, by saying anything new or different. He does not oppose Himself, change His mind, open things up to a new interpretation, etc.
    Maybe part of Another Kerner’s reaction to the saying is that the Anglican bishop Gene Robinson has used these very words to justify his holding his office not only in spite of his active homosexuality, but, it could be argued, due to it. The Episcopal church in America has chosen to make a statement about homosexuality through making this man a bishop in the church. But, of course, it is the Episcopal church doing something new, and not God.
    ‘God doing something new’ is therefore something of a buzzword, but even without that backdrop, it’s not something to say carelessly, or without explaining what is meant. True, every day is new, and every moment of every day. But, also true that there is nothing new under the sun: no new promise, no new revelation about God or His promise or His plan or His nature. We don’t know everything there is to know about God, but The Great I Am has revealed himself sufficiently.

  • S Bauer

        Thank you; I understand better where you are coming from now. I agree that one must be careful and clear when talking about ‘God doing something new,’ especially in this day and age. God has revealed everything we need in Christ and Christ has given it to us in His Word and Sacraments. We do not talk of God doing something new in the realm of justification, as it is distinguished from sanctification. At the same time, the mission of Christ Jesus and the purpose of the Sacraments is ‘a new heaven and a new earth.’ Jesus said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ In the realm of sanctification and from our personal perspective, God is doing ‘new’ things all the time. The elimination of abortion as acceptable behavior (until recently) from western culture was something ‘new’ that was done by the Gospel. The slow, painful repudiation of slavery was something ‘new’ done by the Gospel. The alteration of attitudes toward women in our society (even though distorted in many way by feminism) was something ‘new’ done by the Gospel. And yes, I recognize all this ‘new’ stuff was all part of God’s original creative plan and so really ‘old.’

  • S Bauer

        Thank you; I understand better where you are coming from now. I agree that one must be careful and clear when talking about ‘God doing something new,’ especially in this day and age. God has revealed everything we need in Christ and Christ has given it to us in His Word and Sacraments. We do not talk of God doing something new in the realm of justification, as it is distinguished from sanctification. At the same time, the mission of Christ Jesus and the purpose of the Sacraments is ‘a new heaven and a new earth.’ Jesus said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ In the realm of sanctification and from our personal perspective, God is doing ‘new’ things all the time. The elimination of abortion as acceptable behavior (until recently) from western culture was something ‘new’ that was done by the Gospel. The slow, painful repudiation of slavery was something ‘new’ done by the Gospel. The alteration of attitudes toward women in our society (even though distorted in many way by feminism) was something ‘new’ done by the Gospel. And yes, I recognize all this ‘new’ stuff was all part of God’s original creative plan and so really ‘old.’

  • organshoes

    Good examples, S Bauer. Yes, the ‘old’, but certainly not the same-old-same-old.
    But they were only new in the sense that they were new to us and to our experience, but not new or in addition to the Eternal Word.
    The same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
    Indeed, re abortion: the ‘new’ things are our own invention: that aborting an unwanted, unloved baby is a charitable act, or a boon to an overburdened mother.

  • organshoes

    Good examples, S Bauer. Yes, the ‘old’, but certainly not the same-old-same-old.
    But they were only new in the sense that they were new to us and to our experience, but not new or in addition to the Eternal Word.
    The same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
    Indeed, re abortion: the ‘new’ things are our own invention: that aborting an unwanted, unloved baby is a charitable act, or a boon to an overburdened mother.


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