What does ministry have to do with kite-flying? (Hold that question for now.)
Seminary training is meant to prepare Christian leaders for success. But who prepares leaders for failure? Who teaches pastors how to forgive and seek forgiveness?
Leaders Need to Pray for Forgiveness, Too
The Lord’ Prayer, the special prayer Jesus gave his disciples, makes it clear that they will make mistakes. So we prayer – forgive us for our sins, as we forgive. The pastor, elders, and deacons who do not make confession of personal sins a regular habit are not fully committed to this prayer. Jesus didn’t go around looking for the best of the best would-be disciples, sinless saints. He went in search of those sick people who were desperate for a cure.
Whenever I think about the forgiveness petition of the Lord’s Prayer, my mind turns to the footwashing scene (John 13). Jesus tells his disciples that they have been “washed” so they don’t need a bath (i.e., God’s forgiveness is once-for-all). In that sense, we don’t need to ask for (capital “F”) Forgiveness everyday. Nevertheless, the “feet” need daily washing. That is, we muck up our souls with sins of commission and omission each day. Daily prayer for forgiveness ensures we are “flushing” our ministry conduits, or washing off our missional feet for daily service.Daily prayer for forgiveness ensures we are 'flushing' our ministry conduits. Click To Tweet
My hunch is that many Christian leaders skim over this line of the Lord’s Prayer. Why? Some don’t want to face the fact that they are imperfect. Others are afraid of crossing over a line that will disqualify them from ministry. More still believe their business know-how is good enough to grow their ministry. Soul-matters can take a backseat (“for now”).
Jesus’ message to all of these is, pray for forgiveness, pay attention to your soul. Look at your life. Examine your relationships. Don’t compartmentalize assuming you can rely on charisma and natural skills.
I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating: sometimes thinking “missionally” (even with all its philosophical advantages) can put undue pressure on leaders to “be productive.” Focusing on forgiveness (or prayer for that matter) can seem like a waste of time.
Perhaps, though, evangelicals can take a page out of the Orthodox playbook. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware explains that Orthodox believers have a particular “Sunday of Forgiveness” right before Lent.* On that Sunday morning Matthew 6:14 is read aloud (“If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you…”). In the evening there comes a time for “mutual pardon.” The priest kneels before the gathering and prays, “Forgive me, a sinner.” Then the people kneel and say “May God forgive you. Forgive us.” The next day of the calendar, the first day of Lent, is called “Clean Monday” (Kathara Devtera).
Ware notes that many Orthodox churches continue to celebrate an ancient tradition of going out on hills for a picnic and to fly kites. Ware writes:
“To forgive is to enter spiritual springtime. It is to emerge from gloom into the sunlight, from self-imprisonment into the liberty of the open air. It is to ascend the hills, to let the wind blow on our faces, and to fly noetic kites, the kites of imagination, hope and joy.”
Doesn’t that sound beautifully “unproductive”? Unmeasurable? Unquantifiable?
What if forgiveness and forgiving were kite-flying?
What if prayer brought souls to bloom?
How would that free and empower the church to embody God’s mission in fresh and deeper ways?To forgive is to enter spiritual springtime. Click To Tweet
*See K. Ware, “‘Forgive Us…as We Forgive’: Forgiveness in the Psalms and the Lord’s Prayer,” in Meditations of the Heart (Brepols, 2011), 53-76.
Missio Alliance Comment Policy
The Missio Alliance Writing Collectives exist as a ministry of writing to resource theological practitioners for mission. From our Leading Voices to our regular Writing Team and those invited to publish with us as Community Voices, we are creating a space for thoughtful engagement of critical issues and questions facing the North American Church in God’s mission. This sort of thoughtful engagement is something that we seek to engender not only in our publishing, but in conversations that unfold as a result in the comment section of our articles.
Unfortunately, because of the relational distance introduced by online communication, “thoughtful engagement” and “comment sections” seldom go hand in hand. At the same time, censorship of comments by those who disagree with points made by authors, whose anger or limited perspective taints their words, or who simply feel the need to express their own opinion on a topic without any meaningful engagement with the article or comment in question can mask an important window into the true state of Christian discourse. As such, Missio Alliance sets forth the following suggestions for those who wish to engage in conversation around our writing:
1. Seek to understand the author’s intent.
If you disagree with something the an author said, consider framing your response as, “I hear you as saying _________. Am I understanding you correctly? If so, here’s why I disagree. _____________.
2. Seek to make your own voice heard.
We deeply desire and value the voice and perspective of our readers. However you may react to an article we publish or a fellow commenter, we encourage you to set forth that reaction is the most constructive way possible. Use your voice and perspective to move conversation forward rather than shut it down.
3. Share your story.
One of our favorite tenants is that “an enemy is someone whose story we haven’t heard.” Very often disagreements and rants are the result of people talking past rather than to one another. Everyone’s perspective is intimately bound up with their own stories – their contexts and experiences. We encourage you to couch your comments in whatever aspect of your own story might help others understand where you are coming from.
In view of those suggestions for shaping conversation on our site and in an effort to curate a hospitable space of open conversation, Missio Alliance may delete comments and/or ban users who show no regard for constructive engagement, especially those whose comments are easily construed as trolling, threatening, or abusive.