Monday, October 06, 2008

A Few Notes (And Thoughts)

Today I am out at Claremont School of Theology for Founders' Day. I took some notes during Bishop Willimon's opening address.

Bishop Will Willimon – Founders Day 2008, Claremont School of Theology

Around 1951 the transition in language and vocation from Preacher to Pastor became more prevalent.

This transition meant that ministry was transformed from prophetic preaching to therapeutic caregiving. Ministers became administrators rather than homileticians.

To be a preacher is to be called to love God more than our congregations.

Culture today says we (ministers) have no greater purpose than our congregations.

And yet, we are supposed to be willing to risk everything for the joyful subservience to the Word.

We are called to interject Jesus into the conversation; to talk as God talks.

The Gospel is NOT pragmatic and utilitarian.

We are trying to teach people to describe their life and world in a very different language than the world around them (kind of like being a High School French Teacher)

Today’ challenge is to present Christ in a culture of Godliness, versus the challenge of the 50s and 60s secularism.

Preaching resurrection in an age of immortality juxtaposes the dichotomy of incarnational theology and spiritualism.

The line between Pastor/Enabler/Caregiver has been increasingly blurred (Easum). Whereas, it ought to be that the pastor is a TRANSFORMATIVE leader, based on DISCIPLESHIP. Pastors have gotten better at avoiding controversy than creating and dealing with controversy.

The demand on the minister that should be paid forward to the congregation, from God, is “Get out of yourself!!”

Calcedonian Theology proclaims that God wants to reclaim the world for Himself. Are we preaching this message? If we hold onto the church mentality “We did our work; God had better show up this time,” we will always fail. It should be, “God made the ‘to do’ list, and it is our responsibility to take up the jobs to get the work done.”

As pastors we should bend ourselves to God’s dilemma. Worship the Trinity who speaks and discusses, rather than shape ourselves to the conversations the world wants to have.

Wesley railed against the preacher who panders to the tastes of the congregation.

Christianity is supposed to be Culturally Dissonant, not culturally relevant.

We’ve lost the skills as pastors to know evil, and to point it out.

Are we challenging our congregations with our sermons? (Bishop Wilimon is waiting for a letter from a congregation displeased with the poor preaching, because that is the primary concern, rather than the usual complaints about the pastor who didn’t give “appropriate” pastoral care to a congregation member.)

He has been asked if his preachers have an opinion? Are they willing to take a stand about what the rest of us are dealing with, on TV, in our world, in our community.

Paul Borden, “Any pastor who is overworked is incompetent” – we have taken on too much of the baptized church’s responsibility.

Neibuhr has noted that the current purpose of ordained ministry seems more about rushing to and fro to meet the needs of the cultural definition of ministry, than ministers defining the vocation for the culture.

Preaching says “God means for you (the congregation) to understand the Word.”

We must, therefore, do more than glean, we must dig, till, weed, harvest, and lie fallow the Word among the congregation each week. We must adhere to the challenge to give up what we know to those who do not, and teach God’s stories rather than telling our own.

This is contrary to the authorities of today, and we must remember that Jesus mocked the authority, wasn’t about the nationality or the religion of faith, but about transformed moments, and people.


At October 06, 2008, OpenID johnmeunier said...

Thanks for posting this.

Before I started preaching, I found Willimon inspiring. Now, I find him challenging.

I know last Sunday I left the pulpit feeling I had failed to live up to that challenge.

At October 07, 2008, Blogger Rev. J said...

Great post...Willimon always leaves you feeling you haven't done enough but then again so does the gospel.

Our new bishop states he has this perspective as well (that ministers are to be preachers and leaders first) than care providers.

My question is, what will it take for our churches to start doing their job?

At October 07, 2008, Blogger David said...

fewer pastors, with only the time to preach in their area...can you say Circuit Rider?

At October 07, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts. As a congregation member it puts my role in the church and in the community in a different light. I once thought that the measure of the good sermon was that you left feeling content. Over the past few months, I have rethought that idea. Some of that has been turning back to the Bible and analyzing. And you are completely accurate when you say it is a violent book both literally and figuratively speaking. It is a mess to sort through, filled with contradictions topics we would rather not adress. We want to leave feeling content; feeling that we are fulfilling God's will. However, the reaility is when we find that comfortable place we do not fulfil His will. Instead we become stagnant, resigned and isolated. We don't continue to struggle with what it is that we are called to do. Your sermons these past few months and your notes here from Willimon reaffirm some of my own findings. I know that some of the best sermons I have just recently heard. They were ones that made me walk out the door feeling uneasy, unsure of the sand that I stand on. And as I looked around the room there was that same uneasy look. And as I walked outside, the discussions turned from what people WERE doing to what they WERE NOT. Comfort drifted to insecurity, not in God, but in what we do as members in God's community. I can't speak for all, but I have been leaving feeling a need to take to task those difficult issues and go out and kick some ass! (not just other's in a figurative sense, but my own!) :) -Kate

At October 08, 2008, Blogger David said...

Thanks for sharing those thoughts Kate...makes even the preacher think

At October 12, 2008, Blogger Rex said...


A colleague of ours passed along your blog to me, and I greatly appreciate it. I stuggle with the paradox of how to minister to the congregation, yet I think they agree that my preaching is thought provoking to them. Do you know if there is any way to get a full manuscript of Willimon's Founder's Day address at CST?

- Rex Wignall (Sun City UMC)

At October 12, 2008, Blogger David said...

Try Carole Fowler, Administrative Assistant to the President, 909-447-2552, cfowler @

At October 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never take time to read other people's blog, but I am so glad that I run into your's. Thank you for just an uplifting way of how, we should address our congregation. I do not preach every sunday as I am the Associate but if I get a chance to preach I will do exactly what you are doing right now. Keep uup the good work and thanks for sharing it.

At October 17, 2008, Blogger David said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thanks for stopping by.
This one is particularly challenging as we are living with the people we preach to, and love must pervade our work and lives for the message to be real.

At October 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear David - Thanks so much for your post. I wasn't able to attend due to (as usual) illness so I'm very grateful to have some inkling of what he said. I'm a voracious reader of his books. This will give me something more to contemplate. Blessings - Rev. Diane Mettam


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