Best Practices for Pastors (Part 4).
For my doctoral dissertation, my research discovered how pastors lead congregants to participate in the mission God through their vocations. Based on that research, I’ve identified some best practices for pastors who would like to see their congregants live as whole-life disciples, where every aspect of their lives are participating in the mission of God in our world.
The Fall is what many people experience every day in their lives and vocations. Work is not easy. A nearly universal view of work is that it is not the way it should be.
Because of the Fall, humans struggle to work together for the attainment of shalom.
Cornelius Plantinga Jr. offers this definition of shalom:
“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets called shalom. We call it ‘peace,’ but it means far more than just peace of mind or cease-fire between enemies…(it) means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight–a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, all under the arch of God’s love. Shalom, in other words, is the way things are supposed to be.” (Engaging God’s World, 14-15.)
The Mission of God, Shalom, and the Kingdom of God
When looked through this lens, the mission of God is to reverse the Fall’s destruction of shalom by way of inaugurating the kingdom of God through his Son.
Mike Wittmer wrote,
“(Isaiah) envisions a day when God’s chastened people will return to the land and be governed justly by the Prince of Peace. This fighter for shalom will not only restore proper order to society but also remove the debilitating sin of its members by suffering in their place. In the words of Isaiah, the coming Messiah ‘was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace (shalom) was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Heaven is a Place on Earth, 109.)
This is fulfilled in the person of Jesus, as the Christmas hymn “Joy to the World” puts it,
“No more let sins and sorrow grow;
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow;
Far as the curse is found.”
The Kingdom of God: For Us and For the World
The kingdom of God is both particular to his people yielded to his will and it is also universal to bring blessing to all nations.
It is particular for us, as Christians in our churches, because, as Ross Hastings states, “as communities of the presence of the risen Christ, churches should be communities that experience and express shalom.” (Missional God, Missional Church: Hope for Re-Evangelizing the West, 127.)This shalom is also missional, according to Hastings, because it is the divine mission to reconcile all of creation and humanity to their proper relatedness to God, “And that begins with the new humanity already reconciled, and disseminates from there.” (Ibid, 128.)
Seek the Shalom of the City
As the people of God experience and express the shalom that comes from God, the people of the world are blessed. The paradigm for this is found in Jeremiah 29 when God sent a letter to the Israelites who had been carried away to Babylon.
God commanded them to
“seek the shalom of the city to which I have exiled you, and pray on its behalf to the Lord, for in its shalom there will be shalom for you.” (Jeremiah 29:7).
Christopher Wright explains,
“The exiles had a task—a mission no less—even in the midst of the city of their enemies. And that task was to seek the welfare of that city and to pray for the blessing of YHWH upon it. So they were not only to be the beneficiaries of God’s promise to Abraham…they were also to be the agents of God’s promise to Abraham that through his descendants the nations would be blessed.” (Chistopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God, 99-100).
Encourage Living Life to the Full
Things are not the way they’re supposed to be. However, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated, and God is reconciling all things back to himself.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).
Pastors must remind their people of the way things ought to be, and encourage them to work toward bringing into the lives of others a more proximate experience of flourishing.
One of the pastors I inteviewed stressed this aspect of pastoral ministry by saying,
“We introduce people to God’s design for human flourishing, it’s not just individual, it’s collective…We unpack the Great Commandment a little more fully because I think we have an impoverished view of that.”