Practice of Ministry in 21st-Century Churches -- By: Leith Anderson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 151:604 (Oct 1994)
Article: Practice of Ministry in 21st-Century Churches
Author: Leith Anderson


Practice of Ministry in 21st-Century Churches

Leith Anderson

[Leith Anderson is Senior Pastor, Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, Minnesota.]

[This is article four in the four-part series, “Christian Ministry in the 21st Century,” delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 2–5, 1993.]

Mark Twain is credited with saying, “I once knew a man who grabbed a cat by the tail and learned 40 percent more about cats than he knew before.” Experience gives a practical perspective that theory seldom can. This article introduces four experience-based concepts for ministry at this “hinge of history.”

Combine Exegesis and Ethnology

A careful exegete recognizes that the eternal truths of the Bible are set in a historical, cultural, geographical, political, and linguistic context. Culture and language are intertwined. Study of Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek as a language independent of culture is nonsense. Exegesis presupposes that revelation always comes in cultural context.

Exegesis of Scripture seeks to lift the transcultural eternal truths of God out of the original language and culture. Then, since revelation always comes in cultural context, the exegeted truth has practical value only when it is related to another cultural context. This means that the exegeted truth must be newly contextualized. Contextualization, then, becomes as important as exegesis. Unfortunately pastors are trained in exegesis but rarely in ethnology or cultural contextualization. This is because scholars and churches have wrongly assumed that it is an easy and natural process to insert truth into another culture.

In the last quarter of the 20th century missiology has made progress in equipping present and potential missionaries in ethnology and contextualization. However, those ministering in North America have rarely been equipped this way. An

underlying assumption is that they intuitively know their own culture and naturally contextualize revelation into it. That too is an invalid assumption. Effective practitioners of ministry for the 21st century should be as adept at the hermeneutics of culture as they are at the hermeneutics of the Scriptures. Because this has not often been done in the past, biblical revelation has often not been seen as relevant. Preaching has struggled to communicate truth in ways that connect and are understood.

The importance of combining ethnology with exegesis is elevated by rapid cultural changes. North America is fast becoming an “encyclopedia” of every ethnic group in the world. Regardless of a pastor’s background there a...

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