Tag: mission

How I’m adapting my roles

Good morning. Here I am, thinking out loud about the different ministry roles I have as a leader and how I am going to inhabit them during this time of change. I often revisit my prior thoughts on personal identity and the different roles I give myself and are given, probably between 2 and 4 times a year on average, so this is nothing new. I’ve actually been meaning to do some work on this for a while anyhow, but I really haven’t been able to sustain very long periods of self-reflection during the last few months (not a good thing). But now we are in crisis, and circumstances are demanding that I do this work. God help me – to stay focu

Ok, hello.

3 Frameworks

So I’m a minister, a pastor, a shepherd leader. What are my key roles? Well, here’s three ways to think about it.

One simplified but helpful version is 1) open Scripture, 2) lead worship, 3) nurture community. (This works on the basis of the mission of God being at the center of all of these.)

Another lens is from the PCANZ Book of Order, where it describes my role as 1) leading worship, 2) leading mission, 3) ensuring provision for pastoral care, and 4) providing spiritual nurture.

A final framework is ensuring holistic growth of individuals and the church community through 1) “In” – nurturing personal faith, 2) “Around” – nurturing communal health, and 3) “Out” – nurturing the imagination and practice of mission within and throughout the church community.

My roles in practice, until now

Preaching – a weekly task to open Scripture, especially during the worship gathering (for Student Soul, on Sunday night 7:30pm).

Worship – another weekly task outworked on Sunday nights. Overseeing the “order of service” or runsheet, planning the liturgical flow, creating space for congregational participation.

Pastoral care – overseeing small groups, maintaining regular one-on-one contact with many of my congregation, working with other pastorally-gifted leaders to ensure there is a strong and growing sense of shared connection throughout the community.

And then there’s the bigger picture, administrative leadership kind of stuff. “Working on the church, not in the church” – that kind of thing. Ensuring direction is clear, working on vision, aligning activities to core purpose, goal setting, maintaining and developing lines of accountability and communication. Stepping back to take a look at things from the birds-eye view.

I think that gets a pretty good grip on it. So which framework is it? I think the PCANZ book of order does pretty well there. Preaching & worship come together under “leading worship,” where opening Scripture is fundamentally about leading people into an encounter with the Living God, and is part of the curating of worship. “Leading mission” in the PCANZ book does not say nearly enough about mission in terms of how I think about it, but it does have a very strong view of the church community a the locus point of mission, which is true. And so, all the stuff I was describing about the big picture and birds eye view works nicely under this heading. Pastoral care translates just fine in every case. I feel comfortable whipping “spiritual nurture” in with the overall preaching, worship, care trio… it is kind of central to all of them.

So let’s just go with “In” (preaching & worship), “Around” (pastoral & community nurture), “Out” (empowering and organising the whole church for active and creative mission). This is my basic model in practice.

Getting to the heart of current needs

  • “IN” – at this time, how can I best resource the life of discipleship for those under my care and in my sphere? What teaching might be needed to help fuel a vibrant Christian life of faith under the conditions of major uncertainty? How can I be a part of inspire and igniting the desire for God in people’s lives?
  • “AROUND” – what does collaborative community look like in a lockdown world? How can I create opportunities for shared creativity in the life of our church? Who are key pastoral leaders who can share the responsibility for providing the care, support and connection of each person within our community? What opportunities are available to us for increasing the engagement of Student Soulers in our shared life (and how do we measure that)?
  • “OUT” – how can we serve others in a state of lockdown? What is mission? Where does the good news of Christ resonate most deeply with our cultural context? What is our particular and distinct core task as a community of believers? What holy opportunities is the Spirit of God opening for the church to join? In what ways could I be empowering others in thinking through these questions?

In summary, I think I need to 1) resource the life of discipleship for a vibrant Christian faith, 2) experiment with ways to build an engaged, collaborative, online community of students and young adults, and 3) develop communal avenues for exploring and experimenting with Christ-shaped mission in a pandemic world.

What that means in terms of actions, this week

  1. The worship service, worship music, liturgy – these are not a priority for me. This week. Some of this is stewing in the background. I have a few ideas/ I might get excited or inspired, another Student Souler might push something forward.
  2. I don’t know what “resourcing the life of discipleship for a vibrant Christian faith” means in terms of content, but in terms of practice I will speak to this – somehow – on Sunday night, 7:30pm on Facebook live. (Student Soul Facebook page). It will not be a “sermon”, I have ditched my planned preaching series (although may incorporate it in some other formats).
  3. Some of what has been lost in terms of the worship gathering can be made up for as part of “building an engaged online community.” Maybe coming under “creative community.” I will do work on this prior to and during our “how to be student soul” online meetup on Wednesday at 12pm.
  4. I need to outline some frameworks for mission as a start point for a group and move from there. Some people have expressed interest in being a part of this area.

That’s me, over and out. The little boy is awake from his nap and me and the kids are off for our afternoon lockdown walk. Should be good. Thanks for listening.

Fresh language goes hand-in-hand with fresh thinking. By allowing fresh thoughts to become infused through life in rhythms, practices and habits, space can be made for sustained change.

Alan Hirsch has been consistent in his task to prod the church toward fresh thinking. 5Q is his most recent book, and in it he makes a broad case for the use of some specifically fresh language. The title is a play on ‘intelligence quotient’ (IQ) and other such measurements, and Hirsch has repurposed the idea to describe the form of “symphonic” communal intelligence that arises out of a combination of different perspectives, gifts and motivations.

It’s not like he hasn’t written about this before. Hirsch has basically championed the recovery of the ‘fivefold’ callings/functions (apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher, Ephesians 4:11) for the missional church movement, covering the topic extensively as a co-author in The Permanent Revolution. I personally found that book satisfyingly thorough, and ahead of reading 5Q I wasn’t sure there was much else to say on the APEST gifts. But Hirsch’s writing life has been nothing if not intentional, so I was intrigued. Here’s the breakdown.


The APEST gifts outlined in Ephesians 4 ultimately find their source in the very substance of God’s being. God’s eternal purposes (sentness-missio), holy covenantal heart, saving mercy, loving communal embrace, and infinite truth and wisdom are ways to understand God through the apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching lenses. This language is certainly fresh – or perhaps it’s this specific combination of elements making it feel new – and some people won’t like it, I guess. But all-in-all, it seems a theologically astute and comfortable claim.

Common Grace

Traces of God can be found throughout all creation, and even though there is a ‘brokenness’ to the world we can still see the image of God within humanity. Hirsch makes a great case for identifying the distinctive characteristics of God (outlined above and framed using the APEST language) throughout humanity’s founding stories. In addition to dealing with the Genesis account of creation (looking at humanity’s relationality, agency, rationality, creativity, responsibility, and communication), he also deals more broadly with mythology and archetypes. To flesh this out, he does a quick sweep across subjects such as philosophy, biology, living systems, psychology and the social sciences, history, literature and art. It’s a fun chapter. His contention is essentially that the fivefold gifts are laced throughout every aspect of human reality.


This is pretty straight-forward. Jesus is the fulfilment of humanity, and the archetypal expression of each of the 5Q dimensions. The Father sends the Son, and the Father and the Son send the Spirit. In this classical trinitarian formula, Jesus is both sent and sender. He ignites his followers to continue his mission until he returns, and holds them to account for doing so. In all of this he is the ultimate apostle (cf. John 20:21; Hebrews 3:1). In the same way, Hirsch outlines Jesus as the ultimate expression of prophet (cf. John 1:1-14; Revelation 1:5; Hebrews 2:5; Matthew 4:1-11), evangelist (cf. Luke 19:9-10; Ephesians 2:14), shepherd (cf. John 10:11; 1 Peter 2:25), and teacher (cf. John 1:17; Romans 16:26). (Note: I’ve illustrated these points with ‘quick’ Scriptures, but Hirsch takes a much more synthesising approach.)

Followers of Jesus

Given that the church is meant to carry on the work of Christ through the power of the Spirit, then each of these dimensions of Christ’s ministry must be expressed in mature fulness throughout the whole Body of Christ. This is what Ephesians 4:1-16 is all about, and the argument is developed in full form in The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church.

Marks of the Church

Now, this is the really fun bit! This is where the prior work actually lands us, offering both diagnostic tools and a very clear ‘way forward.’ The marks of the church according to the Nicene Creed are “one, holy, catholic, apostolic.” Missiologist Darryl Guder has previously called us to understand these in the reverse order (see Missional Church), which is pretty cool. Hirsch however takes issue with the impossibility of the “catholic” part. For it to be a true mark of the church, “there must be a visible unity of structure and confession.” True catholicity may well exist in a mystical, “communion of the saints” kind of way, joining believers across the boundaries of space and time. But based on our current situation, there can be no truly structural and confessional world-wide “catholic” church. A more helpful way to think of the marks of the true church is using the APEST framework. The true church is marked by Missional impact (A), Covenant faithfulness (P), Gospel proclamation (E), Reconciled community, (S), Deep wisdom (T). I think this is rad :-)


Hirsch provides a compelling case for how the church is to be and act in the world. APEST is “grounded in God, laced into creation, redeemed by Jesus, granted to the church, lived out in the lives of its saints, to the glory of God. [It is a] ‘system’ that goes as deep as it does wide.” The book has a great flow to it, is actually quite a fun read, and comes across with a sort of light-hearted passion. Hirsch doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he takes God and God’s mission very seriously indeed. Putting 5Q into practice should lead to lots of new insights for church life ‘on the ground,’ and the second half of the book is helpful in fleshing some of these out. It will be interesting to see who picks up the challenge posed by Hirsch in the spheres of systematic and trinitarian theology and see what further explorations of 5Q might be undertaken at that level. Most of all, I’ll look forward to seeing a bit of rage (hehe) as people grapple with the fivefold ‘marks of the church’. 5Q is a clear, bold and purpose-filled proposal for the ongoing shaping of the church. I hope that Hirsch’s thesis gets ‘run through the gauntlet’ at both intellectual and practical levels. Let’s see if the implications are as powerful as they sound.

5Qcentral.com | 5Q on Amazon

Principles of Mission

a. Life is ministry
Main pastoral responsibilities are to family and team. When mission comes first, ministry happens.


b. Do it with a few, for the many
With your team, aim for depth; with everyone else, aim simply to inspire. Deep teams will birth more deep teams.


c. If you aren’t willing, it’s unlikely anyone else will be
Your ultimate responsibility is to pursue your convictions unfalteringly and without compromise.


d. Gifts are a toolkit and an indication of the area of deployment – but they are not the mission


e. Battling one life-long problem is enough
The world is a big place, and you can’t do everything. Do one thing. We’re in this together, and it will take everyone one of us to faithfully play our part.


f. If you’re made for the edge, the centre will choke you
There is a frontier to explore. Define it.


g. Keep the faith
You must feed your vision, for the sake of the cause. The real battle is a battle of heart.


h. Passion + connection


i. You require partnerships, which require self-sacrifice
Let go of grand delusions, pride and self-sufficiency, and step into grace. Be generous.


j. Unsolvable problems and impossible dreams don’t exist
You can do it. You just may need to look elsewhere for the way through.