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Pastoral Identity: Take 2

This is the final post in the ‘Take 2’ series, which are some thoughts for my Ministry Formation essay. Please critique these as I think out loud for the essay. Feel free to ignore the footnotes and the poor writing – this is just a first draft! But I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here I pick up on how the notions of calling and office (or lack thereof) impact on pastoral identity.

This understanding is important for understanding calling for a number of reasons.Firstly, if opens up the possibility that one may be called to ministry which is outside of the modality, that is, not a ministry of the local church.Secondly, if this is the case, if means that discussion of office may be largely irrelevant, for offices, particularly as they exist in today’s church, are largely institutionalised, while sodalities by their nature are to be unhinged from the institution.[1]

This has crucial implications for understanding pastoral identity, for the identity of the person called to the sodality is not found in office or ordination. Rather, the imperative and authorisation for ministry is found in the power of the gospel. It is not that you believe that you are the right person (although, your calling experience may confirm this anyway) but rather that you believe in a gospel that is the power of God to save though you are weak.

One minister who views office quite positively commented that when he is feeling rotten, the office allows him to enact the sacraments (or whatever) quite separately from his own sinfulness. For the worker in a sodality, there may be some sense that others endorse their ministry, for example, if they support it financially, but the sense of authentication from an office is much less prominent. However, at one level this is unecessary. Office in the sense this minister spoke of it is merely a reminder of the gospel of grace, that none of us are worthy to minister to God’s people. In fact, as John Piper reminds us, being involved in ministry is a greater gift from God. To participate in it only indebts us further to him![2] It is from this gospel and its truths that the minister in a sodality draws his strength. As Elizabeth Elliot said, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.”[3]

Like the prophets of old, the minister in a sodality is authorised by God and led by the Holy Spirit, finding meaning in the fulfilling of the task they have been called to.[4] Thus the minister in a sodality is something of a free agent, able to move in and out of various offices or to carry no official office at all, as fits the broader calling to which he or she is called.

[1] While it could be argued that a person is called to an office by God and thus office is not necessarily institutional, one aspect of ordination to office is laying on of hands by the church authorities. Thus it is difficult to argue for an office which is separate from the institutional church. It may be that the office of sodality is ‘apostle’ if this continues past the New Testament period. This would make sense of Paul’s ministry, as well as the ministry he hands on to Timothy that appears broader than that of ‘local church pastor’.

[2] John Piper, Brothers, we are not professionals, Nashville: Broadman and Holmant, 2002, 35.

[3] cited in Barbara Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 243.

[4] cf. Walter C Jackson ‘Authority in Ministry’ p.275-292 in Preparing for Christian Ministry: An Evangelical Approach eds David P Gushee and Walter C Jackson Baker Grand Rapids 1998 p.287

Categories: Uncategorized Written by Tamie

Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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