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Oct

EHS Foundational Tenet 1: Prayed Theology

Posted on October 5th, 2009

As pastors and churches are beginning to explore integration of emotionally healthy spirituality into their lives and churches, I believe it is important to step back and reflect on the wider theological and historical foundations upon which we are building. The following is my list: 1. Prayed Theology 2. A Humble Spirit to Learn from the Whole Church 3. A Sense of Global Church History 4. Contemplative, Monastic Spirituality 5. Integrity in Our Leadership 6. Emotionally Healthy Practices 7. The Marriage Covenant 8. Sexuality 9. Calling, Life and Work 10. Preaching and Teaching 11. Bringing Christ to Culture (Contextualization) 12. Bridging Racial, Cultural, Economic and Gender Barriers Last week I showed our staff a four minute video on the revolution occurring in our culture with regards to social media and its implications for NLF (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVXKI506w-E&feature=player_embedded#t=92).  While I am not sure of all the implications of social media for us today, I am convinced of our need of a radically different leadership model for pastors, one that is rooted in a “prayed theology”. We observe this among many of the pastors and bishops in early church history. Early pastors and church leaders were a unique combination of biblical theologians who both wrestled with and prayed Scripture. They did not see themselves first as CEO’s or leaders/managers in the modern sense of the word. They were prayerful theologians who led the church. That is a significant distinction.  I believe we have a responsibility to engage our culture with the gospel and seek to grow our churches. The danger for us is to do this to such an extent that we lose our first calling as men and women of prayer who are rooted in Scripture and prayer. Consider eight of my favorite early church leaders: Origen (182-251) was the head of a famous catechetical school (or seminary) in Alexandria Egypt. For Origen, all Scripture was the “music of God.” He was so ascetic in his lifestyle that, to avoid slander arising out of his wide ministry and to serve his quest for perfection in Christ, he castrated himself in accordance to Matthew 19:12. Regardless of our opinion of his actions, it demonstrates his commitment to live what he was preaching. Athanasius  (300-373) was a deacon in the church in Alexandria, Egypt and a great defender of Scripture. Repeatedly forced into hiding due to his biblical orthodoxy, he lived for over six years with monks in the Egyptian desert, eventually writing the famous Life of Anthony, perhaps the most famous account of desert fathers ever written.  Ephraem the Syrian (306-373) was a gifted teacher and bishop who wrote sermons and theological treatises. Yet he is best known for his beautiful hymns. What is so striking was how active he was in the daily life of pastoring in his city, organizing food drives during famines and founding a hospital. He reported died assisting victims of the plague.  John Chrysostom (345-407), the “golden mouthed” preacher, lived first as a hermit for six years until health compelled him to return to Antioch where he was ordained a priest, and then later a bishop. What is most astounding is the most famous preacher in Eastern Church history was, at his core, a hermit. Is it any wonder his sermons were so powerful? Augustine (354-413) was a bishop in the African city of Carthage who brought together a rare combination. He lived in a monastic community under what we know as the Augustine Rule of Life, led a “mega-church” under challenging historical conditions, and was a theologian seeking to integrate Scripture with the burning issues of his day (e.g. The Fall of Rome). Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa, the three great Capadoccians (c.330-389) were great theologians to whom we owe a great debt today in their work on the Nicene Creed. What is not commonly highlighted, however, was their passion for monasticism in their day. Gregory of Nazianzus, in particular, struggled intensely with taking a public ministry of bishop in the church and repeatedly fled to the desert when able in order to be with God. Basil himself wrote one of most famous “rules of life” for monastic communities of his day. What do you think of applying these historical models for leadership in our day today? What are the lessons, both positive and negative, we can learn from then?

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