Sunday, February 4, 2007

Faith as a Way of Life--A Vision for Pastoral Leadership

One of the neat things about the blogosphere is that you never know who you will "meet" on it. Christian Scharen, a fellow Lutheran theologian and pastor, posted a response to my first post. He is the director of the Faith as a Way of Life Project, an initiative of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. He is also in the process of revising a book on this topic, entitled "Faith as Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership" (Eerdmans Publishing Company, due out in fall 2007).

Here is what he says about the project and book (and those who know me will see why I am excited about it):

The Christian faith is a coherent vision for a way of life in response to Jesus' invitation to “follow me.” The life of faith lived in response to Jesus’ invitation--and the leadership called to guide and foster faithful lives—follows a basic pattern. That pattern is one of gathering and scattering; gathered into the life of God in Christ the life of God in Christ through the power of the Spirit and scattered for the sake of witness and service in daily life. In an era when many churches focus almost exclusively on gathering, the reassertion of this pattern has very real power.

Yet simply pointing to this pattern isn’t enough. It needs to be further said that the new way of life this pattern implies finds its intellectual and moral content in God's action for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is, faith is a shorthand way of saying the creedal orthodoxy of the Christian faith--the beliefs summarized at the climax of Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts of the Apostles 2:38 “God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” The story of Jesus Christ as gospel is the faith we confess and that faith, rather than some conglomeration of vague beliefs, is the shaping force orienting Christian faith.

Yet our way of life is not simply an interconnected set of beliefs, either. We must go one step further to finally get the necessary picture. The Christian faith as belief gives shape to a life lived daily in and for the sake of God’s reconciling work in the world. Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, who wrote the proposal for the FWL Project, argues that “the core task of pastoral leadership today—and a signal mark of its excellence—is the task of shaping persons and communities for living faith as a way of life in the world.” Christian discipleship, and the life of the Christian ministry that serves such discipleship, is, as Volf so plainly states, a way of life not for its own sake, as if sectarian purity were the goal, but for the sake of the world. Christian ministry is deeply concerned with connecting faith to the daily lives of
disciples.

Pastors will be able to impart this vision of faith only if they themselves are compelled by it and if their parishioners find that the model helps them make sense of life as a whole. One of the most pressing needs of pastoral ministry is therefore to develop, sustain, and legitimize reflection on Christian faith not simply as a set of propositions to believe, commandments to obey, or rituals to perform but as an orienting force that impacts every aspect of daily life."

3 comments:

Kim said...

There you go...adding another book to my infinite books to read list/pile.

Thanks for this. "Yet simply pointing to this pattern isn’t enough." This is most certainly true! Our living faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Messiah is found in our fully living out this faith in and for the world, not just pointing. We must LIVE the story as disciples who are indeed sent out to do just that - live.

Kevan D Penvose said...

sweet stuff! can't wait for the book to come out. much of what i read here is the driving force behind coaching discipleship as "living W.O.R.S.H.I.P." that we're doing at St. Stephen the Martyr.

Thanks for sharing this.

Shalom!

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