I got this flyer in the email a bit ago and it serves as the occasion for the present post wherein I would simply like to remind theologians and biblical scholars that words matter. And choice of words, especially in biblical studies and theological volumes really matter- because poor word choice communicates poor half-truths.
The problem here is that in calling for a ‘new breed’ of minister to ‘take the helm of our churches’, Root (or his copy editor/publicist) is making a statement that is theologically inappropriate and misleading.
Pastors are not charged to ‘take the helm’ of the Church – as that implies that it is they who chart the course, give the orders, and set the agenda. None of those are true. Christ is the head of the Church and Pastors take their orders from him. Christ takes the helm, and, at best, Pastors are the ‘first mate’ (to continue use of the metaphor).
The problem with Root’s (or whoever’s) statement is that it lends itself to the ‘CEO’ mentality too widespread among Pastors as it is. Many Pastors actually believe themselves to be corporate heads and their churches are treated like little corporations (or big ones, if they are at a ‘mega church’). That may be the popular conception of what ‘ministry’ is but it is NOT the biblical conception of ministry and there’s not a shred of evidence in the Bible (particularly the New Testament) that it should be.
Rather, in the New Testament leadership is servanthood. ‘Taking’ the ‘helm’ is the furthest thing from that. That means that Root’s wish that Ministry be more ‘incarnational’ (whatever that catchphrase means these days) is directly in conflict with his call to Pastors that they ‘take the helm’ – as one cannot be simultaneously ‘incarnational’ and ‘in charge’.
Naturally, I have no intention of criticizing Root’s book. I haven’t read it (and won’t, as it simply doesn’t sound interesting to me). My intention here is merely and simply to point out that words matter and our choice of words as theologians can either lead or mislead. And while it remains true that you ‘can’t tell a book by its cover’, or for that matter its cover blurb, you can tell a lot about the care with which it is formulated.