Philosophy of Ministry
Jason Knox is a teacher-pastor-evangelist called of God to explain the truths of the Word of God clearly and to apply them effectively, particularly to young people, so that Christians are further transformed by the power of the Gospel into greater degrees of glory whereby they will, in turn, care for one another and themselves proclaim the Gospel so that others respond to the promises of Christ through conversion and join in ministry.
The Normative Element: The Biblical Mandate to Accomplish My Mission
My Theological Convictions
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 – And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
I Corinthians 12:28 – And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
Scripture makes it clear that even before there was sin in the world that Adam was to be a revelation receiver who needed to be taught and instructed by God. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 reminds us that, as fallen creatures, our need for teaching is constant. 1st Corinthians 12:28 explains that God has entrusted some of this teaching responsibility to particular people he considers “teachers.” James 3:1 warns that teachers will be judged with “greater strictness” and that the task is important. The content of the teaching must be only the apostolic understanding of the Gospel and all of scriptures which finds its fullness in Christ Jesus. The teaching is for the purpose of, among other reasons, the “reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent for every good work”(2nd Timothy 3:16,17). We are all called to obey and rejoice in the truth of God's Word (Psalm 119).
Therefore I recognize the gravity of my calling and must (as Paul exhorted Timothy) do my best present myself to God as an approved worker who can “rightly handle” the scriptures, being a student myself long after I graduate from seminary. In a world hostile to God's truth I must proclaim it boldly so that God's sheep will hear his voice and grow because of it. I must delight in the Bible so that others will share my delight and spread it among themselves.
As a minister to a church's youth I will seek to facilitate and enhance, but not replace, the teaching roles given to the senior pastor and our youth’s parents. As young people they are in the place of learning even how to learn and are being taught many things for the first time, which are tasks that greatly excite me.
John 21:16,17 ...Tend my sheep... feed my sheep....
1 Peter 5:1-2 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder. Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers.
The Biblical role of Pastor is not defined as much as it is illustrated; the primary illustration being a Shepherd. In Mark 6:34 a shepherd's compassion leads Jesus to teach. Teaching may be a primary tool of a Pastor, but a pastor is one who teaches as well as caring for the overall health of a church. A shepherd will tend and feed sheep (John 21:16,17). A shepherd will lead, protect, know, and lay down his life for the sheep and do all of this so that the sheep may have abundant life (John 10:3,10-14). Using Shepherding imagery we do not have a dry definition but an understanding of Pastoring that will require patience, a rod, a staff, a genuine affection for the sheep, and a desire for their good in all things (even at the sacrifice of their own lives).
Therefore to rise to the calling of a Shepherd, Richard Baxter reminds me that I must always consider myself one of the sheep as well, always following Christ as my good shepherd. I, myself, have longings to belong to a community where I am known and loved and as a Pastor knowing and loving my people will be of the utmost importance and delight. Paul calls his churches to “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1) implying that I need to understand my role as a visible example of the imitation of Christ in order to shepherd a church's attempts to do the same. I find this task a daunting challenge and one that I want to rise to and not shrink back from.
As a minister to a church's youth I recognize that the pastoring of young people is a grace centered enterprise where childhood's training wheels are coming off at different moments as they grow into the glorious people God has created and redeemed them to be. This kind of pastoring requires a healthy balance of love, support, and challenge as they are at an age where they desperately need to be led but not taught to be helpless.
Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.
The call to be an Evangelist is like a call to be a Pastor for people not yet in the church. When Jesus was describing himself as the good shepherd he said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also and they will listen to my voice” (John 10:16). This echoes God's heartbeat throughout the whole of scripture: his desire to bless the whole world. God choose Israel not completely as an end in and of itself but as the means by which he would bring redemption to the world. The church now has this task; a “go and tell” type of ministry proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth. As a nation of priests we bring the people to God. In Acts 17 we see Paul, moved by compassion and mission, reasoning, arguing, and preaching to religious and non-religious people alike. He knows their languages and customs and stories and teachings and evangelizes winsomely and with conviction. Paul asserts that the sovereign God of the universe determines allotted periods and dwelling places so that people “should seek God” and the church clearly has a role in this act of witness, proclamation, and love of neighbors fueled by the belief that God desires the best for his people and that Christ is returning again to reign as King forever. The completion of the task given to Adam and Eve (to fill the earth with God's image, Genesis 1:28) is the commission given to God's church which will be completed at the end of the age (Revelation 7).
Therefore, if I am to be an evangelist I must recognize that God himself is the great evangelist at work to make himself known among the and that I can not bring to lead a church into bringing God somewhere where he is not already. My church will be uniquely gifted to be ministering to a community uniquely prepared by God to receive a fuller revelation of himself; the call to repentance and faith. I must be conversant in my church's communities deepest hurts and longings for glory and how to present the Gospel as the answer to their dissatisfaction in those areas. I must be familiar enough my Jesus' voice that I can help others hear it and respond to it as well. Being agents of God's redemption, my church must proclaim truth and love in a winsome and convicting way.
As a minister to a church's youth I must recognize the realities of the emerging generations culture as being different than the culture of older generations which makes the work of reaching them similar to that of a missionary reaching a “foreign” culture.1 Youth are always searching for life to be interpreted for them and if the church does not fill that role effectively there are any number of other influences looking to do it for them. As an evangelist I must rest in the reformed teachings on God's covenants and not treat our church families children like pagans. Also, an evangelist can help equip students to be evangelists in their schools and communities.
Christians are Further Transformed
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord [in scripture], are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
The teaching of God's word has a transformative effect on Christians and is one of the primary means by which God has ordained to sanctify his people. We were created with Glory and God is about the business of restoring us to our full humanity which happens when we gaze upon God's glory in the scriptures. The effect on Christians will take many different forms, but at the very least it will contribute to:
Christians Caring for One Another
1 Thessalonians 5:1 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
It is the work of the Christian to let only what is good for building up one another out of our mouths and to “give grace to those who hear.”(Eph 4:29) Christians are called to sing spiritual songs to one another. We are called to never cease doing good “especially to the household of faith”(Gal 6:10). As there is need we must help one another. Christian fellowship is a place where people are known (our hearts are deep waters and we need men of understanding to draw us out) and we can stick closer as friends to each other than brothers do. All of this is Christ centered and continues the work of transforming us. This is so wonderful that the love has to spill out and we desire to share it with others which will contribute to:
Non-Christians Hearing the Gospel and Being Converted
Jude 1:22,23 Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire.
By nature and mission Disciples are Disciple Makers. To be a faithful church is to know it's role in God's plan of redemption. As Christ is reconciling all things to himself the church is about the business of proclaiming the Gospel, calling all men to repent and believe. A church is never to be a dead end for the Gospel, but a conduit of it. This echos their desire to include more and more people into the wonderful fellowship of Christians that is formed by the preaching of God's Word. Union with Christ ties all of these together.
The Existential Element: How I Uniquely Represent Christ in Ministry
My Calling as Identified through my Spiritual Gifts, Style, Values
1.) Teaching / Teacher
I first sensed my call to ministry when several people, whom I had helped study the Bible and be transformed by the Gospel for the first time, independently affirmed my gift of teaching. It was God's grace to me that I heard it, for the first time, as something I was given, entrusted with, and expected to use (rather than as something pride-inducing). I grew up in a church that rarely preached the Gospel so when I was eventually legitimately taught from the Bible I experience new life being breathed into me. It taught me to be keenly aware of the difference of moralistic fables/good advice and true Biblical teaching. As I grew in excitement for it I saw the desperate need for it. Eventually I grew to learn that not only was I filling a need but that I had a particular gift for it. I have a knack for making complex things understandable and important.
A teacher is someone with a God-given ability to explain the whole counsel of God in an understandable and applicable way. Biblically, this is an intellectual endeavor but also much more so a teacher must function as a doctor healing the sick and a commander calling an army to action. God's word has power, functions like a sword, grows like a seed, is entrusted to others,humbles the proud, binds up the sick, etc, and the faithful teaching of it reveals God himself. Jesus often responded to the title “Rabbi / Teacher” and I believe that God has gifted me to represent Christ in this way.
As a minister to a church's youth I know that teaching is of high importance yet not as readily sought. It is vital to not dumb it down, but to focus on saying one thing at a time and to teach that one thing well. I must teach them not only that this is equipping them for later in life, but also matters now.
1st Corinthians 12:10 tells us that “the ability to distinguish between spirits” is a spiritual gift and it is one that I believe that I have. Discernment means to be able to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil. My brain makes easy work of being a logical and judicial. I easily think through all sides of an issue and can see the big picture which helps me to “discern” whether a saying, teaching, doctrine, written word, or event is good or evil; true or false. I can often “read between the lines” and get to the truth of an issue. I can discern not only teaching but a person’s world view.
As a minister to a church's youth I must not fall into pit of being perceived as the one who is always right in such a cold way that none of my students dealing with strong temptations to do something “wrong” would be hesitant to bring them to me or that a student dealing with a complex issue wouldn't feel listened to or justified in their confusion. At the same time, my discerning voice can help them cut through the many lies they are bombarded with at school and in the media and can be a tool for them to begin to do the same.
3.) Evangelism / Evangelist
It has always been easy for me to approach complete strangers and to engage them in conversations that steer towards matters of significance that I believe takes the combination of courage and perceptiveness that accompanies the gift of being an evangelist. My evangelism style tends to begin intellectual which may lower people's guards if they don't worry initially about me digging into their hearts. Forming lasting and meaningful relationships can be difficult for me in general, but by God's grace some of these strangers have become good friends and some eternal brothers. I see my gift of evangelism as my teaching and discernment as relational action towards non-believers. I often seek out opportunities to talk to unbelievers about spiritual matters and can easily adapt my presentation of the gospel to connect with the individual's needs by perceiving their “big picture” values and experiences. Where I live, shop, eat, and play are typically informed by evangelistic impulses.
4.) Pastor / Shepherd
My Pastor / Shepherd gifts strike me as less developed yet are something that I long for. I see this gift as the relational action of my teaching and discernment towards Christians. I acutely see the need for shepherdly guidance and leadership and I believe that I am called to fill that in some ways. My laying of my life down through service, the use of my talents and skills, and the giving of my time or possessions for the sake of the flock comes pretty naturally to me (being unwed and childless perhaps makes that easier). However, the “naked” giving of myself to others is something I find quite difficult to do. I struggle to believe that I am all that desirable or worthwhile aside from the things I can offer or give to people, yet I continually read that one of the most vital roles of a pastor is their loving presence. I believe that I can nurture the whole person in their walk with God by the relaying of my skills and knowledge . I believe that I can even counsel people to provide guidance and oversight. Yet, merely sharing my faithful presence with people is something that I feel less equipped in and I hope to model with their life what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus through long-term relationships.
As a minister to a church's youth I know that pastoral care looks like being their leader protecting them from unnecessary harm while nurturing them into who God made them to be.
My Ministry Style looks like using spiritual discernment to see the big picture of where a group of Christians are currently and where the Bible tells us we should be heading to (closer relationships to God, each other, and our community). I analyze these situations and then my discernment engages in developing the imaginative and innovative steps we can take to get there. I love to use my teaching to cast vision for that group and work as a pastor to nurture within people an excitement for our vision. I love to asses the current ministries within a church and find the common threads between them all to help filter what we need to toss out and what we can keep, because as much as programs can be helpful and dear to the people I love and want to shepherd my ministry style is to jettison anything not directly connected to our goals of meeting our communities needs because programs are merely means and not the ends. I highly value many people working towards one end and recognize that that best happens in a combination of large group meetings to cast the vision (often centered around a worship service; the teaching and preaching of God's Word and the administration of the sacraments) and in small groups (often discussion of the teaching/preaching and application of each individual to the larger vision). I fully believe that inward growth necessarily results in reaching outward and also that working alongside one another in a common mission towards a goal is one of the best avenues for inward growth to happen and deeper bonds to form. If evangelism isn't a part of my ministry I not only get bored but I get worried that we are taking our eyes off the big picture and losing sight of some of the important ends of our ministry.
The analyzing requires discernment and is an opportunity for teaching. This looks like a lot of time around a table contemplating things and enjoying the act of analyzing. This takes the form of preaching, Sunday School, small group Bible studies, leadership meetings and training, and getting feedback from the whole congregation through pastoral visits and open forums. Then, however, this results in innovation and action being taken. The innovation is an opportunity for pastoring and working with people to deepen their relationship with God, our church, and, evangelistically, others. This action takes the form of coordinated outreach events, small group strategy sessions, participation in the community, equipping others to lead outreach Bible studies, fellowship events, etc.
- Proclamation: A sure understanding of God's Self-Revelation and our submission to him and his truths for our world.
- Vision Casting: A sure understanding of who we corporately are and what we are called to
- Personal Development: Wanting to use one's potential and grow to the fullest and help others use their potential and grow to the fullest
- Authenticity: Ongoing desire to honestly express who one is
- Independence: Wanting control of own time, behavior, tasks
- Leisure: Appreciating unstructured or unscheduled time
- Love: Cherishing others
- Adventure: Seeking new and exciting challenges which may include taking risks
- Flexibility: Coping easily with change and surprise; treasuring the ends over the means
- Happiness: Finding satisfaction, joy, or pleasure. Psalm 16 – refusing to settle for lesser joy
The Situational Element:
What Values Guide the Mission of My Ideal Place of Ministry
I feel called of God to help lead a church come under the proclamation of God's Word so that we become more transformed people with a greater understanding of our role in God's story and redemptive plan for the world. I want to belong to a church so transformed by Biblical teaching that we radically love one another in Gospel deepening ways that translates into Gospel expanding outreach that will make us known as a blessing to our community. We rely on organic expressions of our most important relationships and try to coordinate and facilitate those as possible. I would particularly love to see to it that the church's young people are personally known and loved in a way their peers can't imagine and long to be a part of. This church and youth ministry will do anything and everything so that they might win some for Christ.
- So convinced of God's promises and plans that we courageously take action. All members feel valued as part of the church's goal to be a blessing to others.
- Problems become opportunities for the Gospel.
- Great plans are occasionally not followed through on and the people who labored on them can feel discarded and not communicated to well.
- Administrative tasks and day-to-day activities can be neglected and communicates coldness to those affected.
- Analytical preaching and teaching so that all members become real students of the Bible and the human condition (particularly the local community).
- Innovative ideas, constantly new and exciting opportunities.
- Flexible, fellowship-oriented large and small group gatherings
- Action paced; Rapid, yet wholly flexible
- Intentional times of rest, self care, and fellowship
- New ideas
- Expressions of fruitfulness, visible results (ends)
- Unplanned ministry opportunities; faithful living
- Mundane tasks, clerical work, and means that are seemingly unconnected to our desired ends
- Rigid structures that bind us and hindering red tape.
- Assumes that we choose some of the wrong means
- We become flighty and want to drop whatever we are doing in order to start something new that will fix us
- Choices based on what we know to be true (God's word, our core values, etc)
- Big picture vision accomplished by running all possible scenarios in our head; cause and effect
- A church that feels like family (not like a business) that is flexible, never stagnant, warm, and exciting
- The ever bettering of our relationships to God, one another, and our community at the cost of our activities (making and communicating a schedule can be hard!)
- The importance of being known in a cooperative, relaxed, place that is unregulated and flexible
- The Youth Group doesn't feel like school – people matter
- Friendly group of people always involved in some activity or project – they get a lot done for the community and they seem to really like each other.
- Knowing our tasks directly connect with our big vision
- Seeing fruit from community outreach
- Unsolicited expressions of joy from within our fellowship
- Running out of ideas; too many failed ideas in a row
- The exposure of our vision as mere pipe dreams and empty rhetoric unconnected with reality
- The inability to affect real change or foster real community
Innovative, Analytical, Flexible / Visionary / Creative-Innovative / Energetic and Competent
This church is located in a place where change, adaptability, calculated risk are valued and likely will not do as well in old, traditional, (likely rural) and established communities. This ministry will fit into every changing urban environments and new suburbs; any innovative place that might be described as “up and coming” without much history or “ways we've always done it.”
This church does not have a large property to take care of and weigh them down, but they are visible and easily located or stumbled upon. Where they meet will be strategic. During the rest of the week they are “going and telling”, but whenever they are meeting their “come and see” ministry will be strangely appealing. Ideally, they will have a usual location, but a lot of their ministry will be in local coffee shops and in people's homes. We are intentional about being poised for outreach in our town, but we never aim to be so busy that we are not taking time to always be in ministry to one another within our church and it might be nice to have a space for regular potluck lunches and such.
The Youth Ministry would love to have a place to call their own, but it doesn't have to be where the church is. The Youth Ministry functions as a small group for the junior and senior high students to have a place to be known and consider themselves in ministry to their peers, but the obviously committed students are not involved in “Youth” activities to the detriment of them missing the opportunities to be a part of geographically based small groups with their families and cross-generational Christians living nearby.
This church's worship style is flexible, like a chameleon that adapts to the location it is in. The people may have worship preferences but none that they cling to tightly because they want to follow Paul's example in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” The general environment will mirror the general location of the church, but as it goes through seasons where it is clear that God is bringing in larger numbers of new people of a certain type the worship will adjust to reflect their desire to be a Greek to the Greeks.
The leading of worship always emphasizing the big picture, always explaining why it is that we worship. Nothing is done because of tradition or the fact that we've always done it. Everyone there is encouraged to participates and it is designed that it is clear that it is not a performance. Questions are welcome and there is lots of space to be human, crying babies are celebrated not shushed and sent away. We never are so committed to the liturgy that we can not account for what is happening in the room.
The preaching is insightful and apologetic in style anticipating non-believers in the congregation and is also instructive for believers to be interacting in the world. The authority is always derived from the text (not the preacher's savvy or even an “earned hearing”), and is usually expositional. However the analytic aspects are clearly not only for examining the text but also for examining our culture. The innovative aspects is seen in three ways: how those two analyzed worlds are reconciled, in how application might be imagined, and, thirdly, in the presentation of the sermon itself. The flexibility is evident in the pastoral invitation for the congregation to apply this text in many different ways (not just what we came up with) and in the structure of the sermon itself. This isn't “seeker-sensitive” in the sense that the preaching won't discuss sin or be afraid to make strong declarations, but it does herald the Gospel as the hope for sinners and power for the saints each and every day.
The Youth Ministry is integrated into the Sunday morning worship; careful to include them but not in a way that that marginalizes them (“oh look how cute, the Youth Group kids are taking the offering today!”). Their needs are addressed in worship (hopefully some of them are in the worship band) and in preaching and all people in the congregation operate under the assumption that they are responsible for putting into practice the applications from the sermons and that they will discuss them in their small groups throughout the week.
The leadership of this church is heavy on vision casting and delegating without micromanagement. They challenge the congregation to take action towards our vision and they are empowered and supported in all ways by the leadership. There is a palpable freedom to make mistakes and try new ideas. As strengthening their relationships to each other is a big picture goal the Leadership is excited to work with other leaders on their process; seeing their struggles in ministry as opportunities for discipleship. As any mundane task that does not seem connected to their big goals are wearisome there is a conscious effort by the leadership to frame the grunt work as a small part of God's big story. Setting up chairs is cast as the first part of a worship service and the chair setting up team is an opportunity for community and following up with each other weekly. The chair setting up team isn't comprised of unthinking laborers but people invited to brainstorm the best way to arrange them and to ask what kind of a room facilitates community in the most Gospel-centered way. Conflicts between chair setter uppers expose opportunities for gospel growth and team bonding. Prayer and reliance on the church members who are gifted administratively are heavily featured in this church's leadership.
The Youth Ministry is constantly calling it's committed students into ministry. While we are not looking to do more and more programs as a group, the student leaders will meet to discuss what other teenagers are coming, where they are at in their walks with Christ, what it will look like for the gospel to transform their lives more, and what kind of youth group functions will best facilitate that movement. These meetings are an opportunity for the adult leadership invest in the lives of the student leaders more and to give the freedom and delegations that mark the leadership of the whole church.
Heavy on an invitational style. This church is confident that the Gospel is the best game in town and that while God's glory is somehow displayed in every other community endeavor God's promise to use the local church as his redemptive agent in the world is one that we can trust enough to be active inviters. We want people to see how we do fellowship (people here are actually known, valued, and a part of our glorious purposes). We are frank about the inability for every other activity and group that people are involved in to give them ultimate satisfaction and a fulfilling sense of meaning, worth, value, and purpose while at the same time no one would be able to deny that we dearly love these people whom we are bringing this message to. We also want to enter into the lives of the people in our community. Whenever there are community events we are there, where there is a house that needs repair we are there, we are joining their book clubs and playing in their basketball leagues. We are finding out the needs of our community and meeting them, all the while giving Glory to God and teasing at out how meaningful the relationships at our church can be.
1See Chap Clark's “Hurt” and Walt Mueller's “Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture”