Jan. 12, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
The Rev. Joy Moore urges pastors to always be open to an encounter with Christ.
By Linda Green*
(UMNS) — God’s love is neither won, bought nor negotiated, and divine
love is not blind to evil, according to a seminary professor.
Rev. Joy Moore urged pastors of African-American congregations to
remember that "God’s love is an expression of his expectation that we
might be a reflection of his holiness in a world that is in need of
is nothing that you can do to cause God to love you any less," said
Moore, assistant professor of preaching at Asbury Theological School in
Wilmore, Ky. "And by the same token, there is nothing that you can do to
cause God to love you even more."
spoke to about 650 clergy attending the Fourth Convocation for Pastors
of African American Churches, Jan. 4-7 in Atlanta. While Moore described
the power of divine love, another speaker, the Rev. James McCray,
emphasized the need for pastors to have an awakening to their call, and
he identified "monsters" that could threaten their ministry.
the biblical story of Cain and Abel, Moore said Cain allowed doubt to
overshadow trust because he felt that God had withdrawn from him. She
implored the pastors to be open continuously to a spiritual encounter
with Christ, so that they can lead others to him. "Our purpose is to
point to the God who made us a peculiar people so that others would know
that God is God," she said.
convocation, sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship,
is a biennal empowerment gathering for pastors of African-American
congregations. The theme, "Tarrying for Power, Living in Power," pointed
the pastors to the Holy Spirit, the source of their ministerial
one has not in a long while happened upon the ecstasy of a spiritual
encounter, rituals become habits," Moore said. "When too much time has
passed since we’ve acknowledged our relationship with God, our
relationship to God becomes duty. Cain was not without the presence of
God; they were still on speaking terms."
Moore told the
pastors to constantly tell the stories of Jesus so that the people may
learn and have an encounter with God — just as they have had as clergy.
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
The Rev. James McCray tells pastors about the �monsters� that can threaten ministry.
culture is somewhat lost in its search for God, she said. "We don’t
listen to an evangelist as much as we listen to a therapist. The key
spokesperson for evangelical Christianity today is not Billy Graham, but
James Dobson, a psychologist. It is not that we don’t need to know how
to live. It is that we have lost the story that tells who is living in
told the pastors that it is not possible to reflect God’s image if they
have never encountered God. Pastors, she said, choose rules,
applications, history, cultural information and religious trivia over
telling and hearing "God’s own self-disclosure" through the Genesis to
story is interesting not because of its offerings of political, ethnic,
economic and gender issues but for its ability to reshape imagination,
told the clergy they are more offended by racism than the fact that
most people don’t use a Bible in church on Sunday. "There is a reason
for injustice if you never go to the place where you learn what true
justice is." She said that although the Bible is referenced, pastors do
not listen to the story itself.
in church and in the community are asleep to God’s presence and charge
upon their lives, said McCray, pastor of Jones Memorial United Methodist
Church in San Francisco
"This requires an awakening," he said. After they awaken, God places pastors where they need to serve.
when a pastor responds to the ministerial call, he or she wants to be
in a safe and comfortable place. But, McCray said, if the call is to be
renewed, strengthened and deepened by the presence of the Holy Spirit,
pastors must allow the Spirit to nudge them to the boundaries, move them
to the places where God wants them to be in ministry.
pastor/minister in the 21st century must be a spiritually mature
Christian, desiring a position of leadership in the church or community,
and able, willing and desirous of suffering to lead God’s people and
teach God’s word," he said.
McCray focused on five "monsters" that affect a pastor’s renewal of the call and effectiveness.
The first, he said is
insecurity about identity and self-worth. Pastors insecure about their
identities "create settings that deprive others of their identity and
worth in the reign of God," he said. Those pastors develop a cycle in
the local church called, "bishop, move me or lose me."
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
The Rev. Cynthia Cross is one of 650 pastors who attended the convocation.
monster is thinking that the universe is a battleground. The battle
syndrome leads a pastor to see the world as a "vast combat zone,"
allowing life to become a "self-fulfilling prophecy."
atheism is the third monster. This occurs when a pastor thinks
"responsibility for everything rests on me." This thought, McCray said,
is based on an unconscious conviction that if good is to happen, the
pastor must be the one to make it happen. This leads to the "pathology
of imposing my will on others, stressing my relationships and breaking
others," he said.
fourth impact on a pastor’s effectiveness is fear of the natural chaos
of life. Pastors forget that the Book of Genesis should remind them "in
God’s economy, chaos is the precondition to creativity" and "in the
creation mythos, life emerges from the void."
final monster is denial of death. Pastors must remember, he said, that
all things die. There is often a demand for the resuscitation of things
that are no longer alive, such as programs or projects, he said. "When
we are prepared to let things die, we are prepared to get in touch with a
new source of life and force."
McCray urged the pastors to renew their call continuously and experience it "as alive."
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.