Many of us receive great personal satisfaction from our Sunday sermons, and so we should, for it is a tremendous honor to speak on behalf of the King of the universe. But some of us overly depend on our public teaching ministries for a weekly shot of self-esteem, and our personal identities have become far too wrapped up in our role as the community’s “Sunday sage.”
Robust Sunday attendance and generous church offerings only compound the problem. For as a church grows, the preaching pastor will almost inevitably be affirmed in an institutional, managerial approach to ministry by a well-meaning group of elders or deacons whose ecclesiology and understanding of pastoral effectiveness are influenced more by the Wall Street Journal than by the letters of Paul.
We must preach community, and we must structure and present our church programs in such a way as to make those relational environments a first priority for the lives of our people.
The responsibilities of senior church leaders go beyond encouraging church family relationships through appropriate teaching and programming. Pastors need community too—perhaps more than anyone. We pastors are not immune to the reality that spiritual formation occurs in the context of community. We must pursue relationships with a handful of brothers in the congregation, first and foremost, for our own spiritual health. We pastors need caring brothers and sisters. And they need us.
But there is another reason that we as pastors need a group of close surrogate siblings in the church family. We ourselves need to be in community in order to model community life for our people if we truly want them to embrace church family values for their own lives.
One who has no true brothers in the congregation will be unable authentically and credibly to challenge others to live together as surrogate siblings.
We cannot read our Bibles without concluding that the number one evidence of Christian maturity is our ability to engage in intimate, authentic relationships with our fellow human beings.
There is no other consistently reliable benchmark of our growth in Christ—certainly not Bible knowledge or effectiveness in ministry—by which to evaluate our Christian walk.
It’s all about family. The social unit to which strong-group Mediterranean persons expressed primary relational allegiance was the family. People in the world of Jesus and Paul readily embraced the idea that the good of the family was to take priority over one’s personal desires and aspirations.
~ When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus’ Vision for Authentic Christian Community – Hellerman
I repeat: There is so much more to learn from the book, these many excerpts should leave you with a real interest in buying Hellerman’s book and study it in depth. Very challenging.