The Art of Pastoring Response Essay

Introduction

The main insight I derived from the introduction was that being a church leader entails having a certain level of interaction with his/her congregation. Hanson explains this by stating: “I have discovered that when I follow Jesus on my everyday life as a pastor, people meet Jesus through my life”1.

In order to become an effective pastor, one must always take into account the various nuances that composes a congregation and learn to effectively mitigate problems, guide individuals appropriately and be a leader that is open to communication and new ideas (i.e. be like Jesus when he was alive). This ensures that a leader is able to trust his congregation explicitly resulting in better and more successful goals in the future.

Based on this section, I believe that success as a pastor is always measured by the amount of accountability a person takes for his actions. Whether success or failure accountability is the ability of a person to accept responsibility for ones actions and learn from them, a trait that is important in being able to make sound pastoral decisions in the future.

Beginning

Based on the presented information, the main insight that derived from this chapter is that the ethos utilized to justify certain arguments in the church can be manufactured and created for a certain purpose and in the case of the ethos of current church leaders it basis is one which advocates following what the leaders advocate, however, such ethos may not be what the people want or need.

The following quote is the most poignant aspect of the chapter: “They also reveal that he tried the methods but with no results”2. This quote is in reference to the various books on the ethos of the church that Hansen’s predecessor bought and actively implemented yet was not successful at all.

The fact remains that due to reasoning of this type of ethos that keeps on justifying itself on the basis of the knowledge of the leaders regarding ethics, morality and theology, it shows itself to be inherently flawed. The ethical flaw in this particular case is the fact that basis a system of ethos on inherent knowledge and expertise creates far too many risks in terms of the ethical principles behind the creation of the ethos itself.

In fact further examination of the ethos of church leaders reveals that it seems more self-serving to the leaders than to the general public. The concept of ethos can be shaped and molded in order to entice greater public support for a particular issue.

That is what is being seen right in the ethos of church leaders wherein the justification for actions are based on an ethos that has been molded to create positive public opinion but in fact is nothing more than a method of focusing on the personal agendas of the leaders of the church. Such actions should be avoided at costs since it creates more problems than it actually solves.

Call

From this chapter, I realized that the call to ministry should not come out of a desire to impose one’s views, rather, it should be one based on the desire to share the word of God and the teachings of Christ, that is all.

I believe that true leadership within the Catholic Church as a pastor cannot be achieved so long as one pursues concepts related to one’s own manufactured ethos. For example, Hansen stated the following: “Most of the books and articles were written by genuine Christians. What went wrong?” (In reference to the failures of his predecessor)3.

No matter one’s own belief regarding the possible “beneficial results” of following the agendas of the church, the fact remains that such agendas can cloud one’s mind which can create results that cause suffering for others.

This is one of the reasons why Pope Benedict announced that the church should distance itself from its obsession involving gays, abortion and contraceptives since its focus on such aspects has not only created problems for others but has clouded the minds of church leaders to the extent that they debate rather than lead and guide.

The Holy Spirit

When it came to the chapter on the Holy Spirit, the main insight I derived from it was that we should allow the Holy Spirit to work through us rather than focus on our own personal ideas and issues regarding what is right. Hansen even stated in reference to the style of ministry he had” I was not following a job description, a Christian movement or a church growth scheme“4.

An examination of the motivations behind the ethos of church leaders at the present reveals that should individuals accept their ethos and implement it, it benefits these leaders more so than regular individuals.

The ethos advocated by these leaders in itself is actually self-serving towards the leaders themselves since it justifies their actions under the basis of a righteous cause yet in the end is more beneficial to them than to other individuals. How does it truly serve the cause of Christ to prevent a woman’s right over her own body, to use science to prevent unwanted births or to isolate someone based on their sexual orientation?

While there are a plethora of different answers regarding this such as the right to life or that all life is precious, the fact remains is that the church is there merely to guide and not to force.

Yet, all too often it can be seen that church leaders often force down their concepts onto their congregation on the basis of ethics stating that is the will of the almighty yet based on the work of Hansen, it can clearly be seen that such a method is not being a servant to the people but a form of dictatorship.

Temptation

The main insight I derived from this chapter was that in act of being a pastor, it can be tempting to utilize your position in order to focus on particular “issues” that you feel should be pursued by your congregation. This I believe is inherently wrong since to utilize your position as a preacher to influence people towards a particular type of turns them away rather than towards God.

What must be understood is that ethos can refer to the way in which a person portrays themselves in an argument, in a sense that it is a method in which persuaders present an “image” to people that they are attempting to persuade.

When looking at the work of Hansen, it becomes immediately apparent that his method of advocated ministry does not focus on any specific type of personal conviction (i.e. stop abortions, make homosexuals into heterosexuals, etc.), rather, he focuses on the concept of acceptance, allowing people to be who they are and to lead through example rather than to summarily advocate for a particular way of thinking simply because he is in a position to advocate its usage.

He even states: “I may lose my standing as an expert but I gain my soul”5. Even if it is tempting to do so, even if you are in position to do it; such actions should not be pursued since it is a violation of the trust your congregation has placed in you to lead them without bias and with love in your heart for all.

Eschatology

The main insight I derived from the chapter on Eschatology was that it is useless to keep on thinking of the future, rather, it is best to learn from the past and continue to move forward with your life. Hansen states: “Pastors exercise the means of grace entrusted to the church until the Lord’s return”6. However, I believe that it is also necessary to lead one’s flock by looking back at one’s mistakes and avoiding them in the future.

This viewpoint is basically similar to the manner in which a person gains more knowledge from reviewing a particular event or situation and determining what could have been done better or what would have been the best recourse at the time. This is similar to the Pavlovian classical conditioning theory wherein people associate a set of actions and behavioral responses based on a particular type of external stimulus.

In this case reflective learning helps to establish certain conditioned actions in a person towards more appropriate forms of behavior based on learning from past experiences.

The conditioned reflex comes about when a certain familiar type of external stimuli is introduced wherein through reflective learning a person is able to produce the correct type of response over and over again based on the type of external stimulus introduced. This is I believe is an aspect that Hansen neglected to focus on since, for me, constant self-reflection is a necessity in becoming a good pastor.

Sometimes we tend to forget who we are due to the many responsibilities we wind up having. Self introspection helps a person determine what precise set of developed traits works in regards to interacting with various situations and people. It is a concept that clarifies which aspects need further improvement and which behavioral features of a person are fine the way they are.

Preaching

On the chapter on preaching, the most important insight I derived from it was that instead of focusing on personal agendas, it would be more effective to employ methods of reflective thinking and core values as advocated by Hansen (though he does not state this outright it is implied within his arguments involving self-reflection).

The concept of reflective thinking is based off of the practice of understanding the “self” in relation to a set of core ethical values. These particular core values are necessary tools in the process of moral reflection (which is a part of the process of preaching the gospel) in which a person examines his/her behavior and makes moral judgments on the type of behavior shown by the “self” and how this in turn affects the people around him/her.

Since the act of preaching can be considered a means of outwardly stating one’s inner most thoughts regarding God and certain issues of faith, it is important that proper self-reflection is utilized in order to speak from a place of understanding. As Hansen states: “That’s what a pastor is, a parable of Jesus”, we must examine ourselves as we examine a parable in order to better understand how to perform our ministry7.

When prayer is utilized with reflective thinking people begin to understand the implications of certain behaviors, actions and ideas and how these actions reflect upon him/her as a person.

What must be understood is that humans are creatures of habit, with many of us being set into a particular way and method of thinking that resists change despite its necessity. It is this resistance to change that at times inhibits the proper development of the learning process and causes people to remain unchanged despite the need for change.

Prayer

For me, the chapter on prayer has helped me to realize my own problems regarding my own personal issues. I did not realize it before but I had a tendency to get mad over every single little thing, that if something did not go exactly the way I wanted I tended to follow it with an angry outburst.

If people did not agree with me ideas I got angry, if they did not follow what I said I got angry; for some reason I had a short temper that was just begging to continuously lash out at people.

It was only when I started on the process of reading the chapter on prayer and understanding my life through the yes of God that I began to realize that a lot of my actions were uncalled for, that my behavior towards others was causing my relationships with them to suffer and that as a person I was continuously beginning to isolate myself from social circles due to my uncalled for outbursts.

I realized then that it was time for a change, that in order to become a better person I needed to change the way I was.

I began a great deal of self-introspection dealing with the origin of my anger, I examined by behavior, learned that my immediate anger towards problematic situations was uncalled for and today the result is me being able to live a more productive life with fewer angry outbursts as a result of understanding the need for prayer in my life.

One quote from the book that sums this idea up is the following: “praying my way through the life of a congregation was just about the best thing I could for a church that called me to be their pastor”8 Prayer should be thought of not as a means of communication but a type of sustenance that is needed in everyday life.

Friendship

The most important insight that I got from the chapter on friendship was the necessity of admitting when you are wrong. While it has been established that the basis of the ethos of church leaders is one based upon the inherent skills, talents and knowledge of pastors, bishops, cardinals, etc the fact remains that such a basis is inherently flawed.

Being an effective pastor often requires admitting when you are wrong yet as I have observed in the church over the past several centuries of its existence, it has rarely admitted is has been wrong.

This I believe is one of the reasons why I believe that when it comes to friendship one must be able to think of oneself as being equal to the congregation they serve since to focus on helping others instead of promoting one’s own belief system can result in better results rather than pursuing an agenda that could possibly exclude others as a result.

Hansen stated it best when he said: “Since they know me as the pastor of the local church, they associate my action with the Christ”9. It is based on this that we must act as Christ would do in a similar situation.

Sacrament

In the case of the chapter on the sacrament, the main insight I derived from it was that most of the sacraments are a form of “artifice”, meaning that it is created, manufactured, made, constructed etc. Hansen even states: “in my ministry, I can quench the Spirit by forcing things to go my way”, this is in reference to pursuing his own views or the agendas of the church rather than working for God10.

It can be considered a type of surface image which may in fact have an entirely fictitious relationship to what is actually true. For example, a teacher could show up in class one day wearing cowboy boots, a ten gallon hat and long sleeved t-shirt with a large image of a cactus on the front, the next day he can wear an average suit and tie while the day after that he could wear a Scottish kilt, bagpipes and one of those patterned hats.

The reason I mention this is due to the fact that despite the different outfits he wears the person and the ideas that are being presented have not changed at all however what is changed is the perception of the audience regarding the idea being presented.

The same can be said for sacraments wherein the method in which the idea is “packaged” drastically changes the perception of the audience towards accepting the idea itself or the validity of its statements. In the case of the sacraments advocated by church it can be seen that when boiled down to its very essence it is merely a statement which says the following: “follow what I say since I know theology”.

It is in the way that it is packaged and presented to the public that changes the perception of the public to the idea that is being presented. What the public sees is an argument for religion and divine worship, what it is in essence is a statement to constrain actions that these leaders view as “socially corruptive”.

When I read the work of Hansen, I believed that his perspective of letting Jesus Christ lead instead of yourself is far more effective in guiding a pastor’s congregations. Humans in general have a habit of believing that their views are correct result in them actively implementing such views when they are given the capacity to do so.

Unfortunately when this occurs, this often results in actions which can have a negative impact on others as seen in the general treatment of homosexuals and women. Sacraments in general should be considered as guide to live one’s life according to the lessons of Christ and should not be thought of as a means of constraining one’s behavior.

Leadership

For me, the most important message that I gained from chapter 10 was found on page 147 wherein I learned that “true leaders in the church do not let themselves get caught up in their personal agendas and instead lead their congregation by simply letting Christ lead the church through them”11.

Hansen presents the notion that all too often church leaders get caught up in their personal agendas which often results in poor church leadership. In fact, in a recent message by Pope Benedict the 16th he stated that the church itself should start to distance itself from its obsession on gays, contraception and abortion and instead should focus its energies on providing proper care and ministry to its congregation.

Such a statement from the Pope actually reflects the ideas presented by Hansen since contraception, homosexuality and abortion are often issues that are part of the personal agendas of church leaders that blind them towards what their individual congregations need.

Their focus on the development of their ethos of what a true Christian should be has not resulted in what Hansen implies as “true leadership” wherein it is no longer about the teachings of Christ, rather, it becomes more about the views of the church leadership.

Leaving

The main insight I derived from this chapter was need to constantly improve one’s self and try out new things. Hansen mentioned the following at one point “Am I so desperate for identity that I have resorted to calling myself Jesus?”12 This is something that Hansen mentioned related to when pastors tend to fall into particular habits of doing things without realizing it.

This I believe is detrimental towards our continued growth since it is necessary to constantly strive to improve one’s self in order to become a better version of who were are. From what I understood in this chapter, one of the reasons why Hansen left was simply because he experienced a burnout effect due to relatively new experiences.

Hansen revealed in the book that at times he desired to stop being a pastor; I believe that the reason behind this was a lack of self-reflection in knowing what skills he needed to develop, how should he “change up” interacting with people and processes could he have implemented to make his experience as a pastor that much more positive.

Moon states that “reflective thinking is a manner in which a person becomes clearer of something in that it is a process that helps to sort out the melting pot of ideas, notions and emotions that are associated with a given situation”.

Reflective thinking helps to facilitate the process this process of change by revealing to people their failings, their deficiencies, and all the negative aspects that are inherent in their own selves. On the other hand it also reveals what can be done, how improvement can be facilitated and where to start on the road towards self-improvement.

Reward

Based on this chapter, one the insights I derived was that the capacity to lead a congregation and enable them to become closer to God should be the “reward’ that a pastor receives for his services. For example, Hansen states “I want my life to be a living organism through which God speaks”13.

I believe that is important for any pastor to realize that the reward is in the service itself since being able to lead a congregation means to develop the means to understand their underlying intents and emotions and guide them appropriately.

On the other hand, it must be noted that getting your “reward” is not a straightforward decision making process nor is a simple method of problem solving such as trying to remember how to get back home, rather, it constitutes a method of thinking that helps to interpret situations and determine how certain actions affected it and which particular types of behaviors should have been adapted to make that situation better.

This is how a pastor helps and guide the congregation they serve rather than superimposing their will upon the people they are supposed to be the servants of.

Epilogue

The main insight I derived from the epilogue was the need to create a personal plan of success for my experience as a pastor. In creating a personal plan of success one must always take into account three distinct factors namely: the decisions that you will make in the future, how you will treat your congregation and how to acknowledge personal mistakes when they are made.

When it comes to the process of making decisions critical thinking plays an important role in being able to make the right decisions at the right time. There is an old saying that states “time waits for no one” such a statement exemplifies the decision making process in most organizations where critical evaluations must be done quickly, effectively and above all correctly in order to ensure the success of the congregation.

As such this where critical thinking comes into the picture, it enables individuals to think on their feet, make snap decisions and evaluate on a moment’s notice what is needed then and there.

Bibliography

Hansen, David. The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers. (New York: IVP Books, 2012), 1 – 180.

Footnotes

1 Hansen, David.. The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers. (New York: IVP Books, 2012), 1 – 180.

2 Ibid

3 Hansen, David. The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers. (New York: IVP Books, 2012), 1 – 180.

4 Ibid

5 Ibid

6 Hansen, David. The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers. (New York: IVP Books, 2012), 1 – 180

7 Ibid

8 Hansen, David. The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers. (New York: IVP Books, 2012), 1 – 180.

9 Ibid

10 Ibid

11 Hansen, David. The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers. (New York: IVP Books, 2012), 1 – 180.

12 Ibid

13 Ibid

This response essay on The Art of Pastoring

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