Relational Ministry 101: Person

If relational ministry is the beat of this generation, and I suspect Andrew Root in Relational Ministry is accurate, everything comes down to understanding what a person is and what relationship is and what relational ministry — person to person — is all about. I cannot imagine any pastors going through seminary today not reading this important book. Andrew Root is calling pastors and ministers back to personal ministry, even more, back to person-to-person relationship as the heart of ministry.

So far this is my book of 2013.

Where can pastoral ministry become more personal in ministry? What are the obstacles? Why is this a problem in ministry?

To be a person is to be in relationship as a person with another person. To love is indwell the other. To indwell the other however is not enmeshment or co-dependence. To indwell the other as a person is to sustain one’s personal integrity and indwell, or share life, with that other person as a person without losing ourself in the indwelling.

Too many pastors and leaders want followers and they want to indwell the other at some level but they don’t want to open up to the indwelling of the other. One-way indwelling is not indwelling; it is coercion or seeking to influence someone into your way of thinking. Genuine personal ministry indwells.

To indwell another is for another person’s being to become part of our being, and our being to become part of their being.

How does this happen?

1. A person indwells through action. Actions manifest personhood.

2. A person indwells through communication.

3. A person indwells because a person is an embodied spirit. Spirits share; demons overpower. Spirits indwell to share.

4. A person is indwelled because a person is broken. Sin is the brokenness of relationship.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Jim

    an embodied spirit? hmmm… I don’t know about that.

  • Jim

    My apologies…I didn’t complete my thought. That sounds very similar to the New Age maxim, “We are not material beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a material experience.”

  • http://www.danjbrennan.com/ Dan Brennan

    Scot, (or anyone else)

    I am deeply interested in Root’s book and how it relates to my men and women in friendship (or in the immediate context men and women in ministry as partners). I think you give an accurate description of Root’s view of person. So, how does this impact relationships between men and women who are not in romantic relationships?

    I can imagine many people who have a strong commitment to marriage objecting to the language (and relational reality) to another man “indwelling” a woman who he’s not married to as threatening biblical marriage.

    Yet, I think Root’s definition (and encouragement) of person gives us much healthy and relational space to enter into relationships of indwelling the other without sacrificing the integrity of self *and* without sacrificing the integrity of marriage.

    I think you give an accurate description of Root here: “To be a person is to be in relationship as a person with another person. To love is indwell the other. To indwell the other however is not enmeshment or co-dependence. To indwell the other as a person is to sustain one’s personal integrity and indwell, or share life, with that other person as a person without losing ourself in the indwelling.

    Too many pastors and leaders want followers and they want to indwell the other at some level but they don’t want to open up to the indwelling of the other. One-way indwelling is not indwelling; it is coercion or seeking to influence someone into your way of thinking. Genuine personal ministry indwells.”

    My two cents is that this is the way forward for not only pastoral ministry, but for understanding relational oneness between men and women who are not married to each other. Empathy (in Root’s analysis) becomes the discipline to not coerce and to not remain detached. It becomes the way of love, union, and relationship.

  • http://brothergary.wordpress.com Gary Lynch

    My struggle with being a relational minister is this: This type of ministry while very necessary is also very draining, so if the relationships are not ones of reciprocity, the pastor soon finds him or herself spiritually and emotionally drained.
    Teaching the importance of “being” in relationalship with others and how that looks will best be taught in the context of the church as community, learning first to love one another and then to take that relational love out into the community.
    These things take time and don’t just happen, we have to be willing to take the time to enter into relatiionships that will last …

  • Marshall

    “Indwelling”?? Not sure how much clarity this word adds. Jesus dwells in me; is it appropriate to have the whole congregation in there? When I pray for someone, I am carrying them in my heart for a time … don’t think I can keep that up for long or for many without making myself crazy (more than usual). Is it even reasonable to expect the Other, all the Others, to indwell me like that?

    It would be wonderful if we all could live in each others’ hearts but in the present age of the world I would cheerfully settle for some plain vanilla community of time-limited respectful listening.

  • Brandon Bishop

    As a Young Life staff person (relational ministry at its core), the biggest obstacle to spending time with kids is….time. Relationships don’t happen in short bursts or single interactions, they happen over many hours of shared experiences. Time is a hurdle because it is NOT the only thing a minister does. There is management and administration, sermon writing, counseling, planning, etc., etc.

    As far as the draining aspect of relational ministry…..yep. It’s extremely draining. This is why we all need, pastors included, need strong community. I need to have at least a few filling relationships to counter the draining ones. The other way the relational minister combats this fatigue is to, “frequently slip away to lonely places and pray.”

  • Dana Ames

    “To be a person is to be in relationship as a person with another person. To love is indwell the other. To indwell the other however is not enmeshment or co-dependence. To indwell the other as a person is to sustain one’s personal integrity and indwell, or share life, with that other person as a person without losing oneself in the indwelling.”

    That is very Orthodox ;)

    This: “A person indwells through action. Actions manifest personhood. A person indwells through communication. A person indwells because a person is an embodied spirit; spirits share.” makes me think of St Gregory Palamas, who explained that when we encounter God it’s not possible to encounter God’s essence (divinity as divinity). We’re not even able to encounter other persons on the level of essence. The level on which we do encounter persons, divine and human, is that of energies, which would be such things as action, communication, sharing in both an internal and external manner, and many other ways – and that this is true unmediated personal encounter of God and others, not some kind of go-between.

    In Orthodox theology, one way the Incarnation of Christ is described is with the Greek word that means “enfleshment” – embodied. Human persons being embodied spirits makes sense. Willard describes humans this way as well. Orthodox theology says that God created humanity in such a way that he could one day be incarnated into it, and that that is a significant part of what it means to be created in the image of God – we were actually created in the image of the Second Person from the very beginning. The Trinity indwell one another, and humans were also made to indwell one another and to be indwelt by God.

    Scot, #4 is confusing. I would understand it as that our brokenness *prevents* indwelling, not that we indwell because of it. If the latter is actually what Root means, it seems like that would be contradicting the rest.

    Dana

  • Samuel

    @ Dana,

    I’m interested in the following statement you made in your comment: “..we were actually created in the image of the Second Person from the very beginning”.

    If Jesus, the human, did not exist until His birth, but did exist spiritually (there is mystery here) how were we made in His image? I assume you’re not speaking in terms of fleshly image, correct?

  • Jean

    While I love the idea of relational ministry, it seems like it would require a significant time commitment for each indwelling relationship. Considering all other responsibilities, is this a role that a paster could realistically play?

  • Dana Ames

    Correct, I am not speaking in terms of fleshly image.

    One of the ways we are made in his image is that he fashioned the human so that he could become incarnate in the world he created as that kind of being.

    In all the Orthodox icons that have to do with creation, it is Jesus who is depicted as doing the actual creating. The whole Trinity is involved with creation, but only the Person who would eventually become incarnate can be depicted.

    1Cor 8.6: Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

    From http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/doctrine/the-symbol-of-faith/son-of-god:

    “Being always with the Father, the Son is also one life, one will, one power and one action with Him. Whatever the Father is, the Son is; and so whatever the Father does, the Son does as well. The original act of God outside of His divine existence is the act of creation. The Father is creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in the act of creation, as—we confess in the Symbol of Faith, the Son is the one by whom all things were made.

    The Son acts in creation as the one who accomplishes the Father’s will. The divine act of creation-and, indeed, every action toward the world in revelation, salvation, and glorification—is willed by the Father and accomplished by the Son (we will speak of the Holy Spirit below) in one identical divine action. Thus, we have the Genesis account of God creating through His divine word (“God said…”), and in the Gospel of St. John the following specific revelation:

    He [the Word-Son] was in the beginning with God [the Father]; all things were made through [or by] him and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn 1:2-3).

    This is the exact doctrine of the Apostle Paul as well:

    … in him [the Son] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers-all things were created through him and for him. He is before an things and in him all things hold together (Col 1:16-17).

    Thus, the eternal Son of God is confessed as the one “by whom all things were made.” (Heb 1: 2; 2:10; Rom I 1 : 36 ) ”

    and
    “He is the personal Word of God Who was “in the beginning with God,” the Word “by whom all things were made” (Jn 1:2). He is the uncreated Word of God according to Whose image all men (humans) are created.”

    and
    “Christ is the True Adam. The original Adam was merely “a type of him who was to come” (Rom 5:14).

    For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living soul;” the last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven (1 Cor 15:21-22, 45-49).”

    Christ is pre-eminent above everything. Everything has reference to him, everything is “about” him. A mystery indeed.

    Dana

  • Tom F.

    Where can pastoral ministry become more personal in ministry? I think the important thing is that it is not matter of simply intensifying the “personal” in what pastors are already doing. That simply means burnout. I think it will need to be fairly different altogether. As I understand it so far, relational ministry means indwelling one another in Christ and then seeking to create further opportunities for others to grow in that. For example, Brandon, I volunteered with Young Life in college, and my sense is that the staff people were expected to be both the more typical non-profit entrepreneurial types AS WELL AS deeply relational beings. And yes, we turned through area directors at the rate of about 1 each year, year and half.

    As to Dan’s comment on indwelling and cross-gender relationships, I think the real problem is if a cross-gender relationship involves *deeper* indwelling than the marriage relationship. There are interesting implications of this: married couples that have low “indwelling” with each other will likely either be stuck in relationships with others (because going deeper with others would further destablize the marriage), or they will engender conflict as they pursue deeper indwelling outside the marriage (i.e., relationships at work, emotional affairs, full-blown affairs). Another interesting implication has to do with relationships between married and unmarried people in the church. The best way to help singles indwell in relationship with couples…may be to help the couple have the best relationship they possibly can. Conversely, high indwelling between unmarried and married folks (and between married folks of different genders in different relationships) is likely to promote even further growth and indwelling amongst married couples. The key here is that personhood is gained by giving it away; and to the extent that you grow in one relationship, it is so you can bless others in relationship.

    Theologically, Jesus’ comment is that marriage is temporary, there is no marriage on the other side of the resurrection. Indwelling provides an idea why: possibly because in the new creation, it would be impossible to destablize a relationship with one by deeply indwelling with another.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X