Digital Digital copies are fulfulled via Edelweiss, an external trusted partner. Request an Exam copy Please select a version: Request an Desk copy Please select a version: Description An ethical guide for clergy and laypersons who deal with "the vexing questions that arise in the daily life of a minister at work. With real cases, solid theological-ethical reflection, and wise moral counsel, they illuminate an impressive array of issues.
They resist easy moralisms and lofty generalities as they examine truth-telling in recommendation letters, boundaries in counseling relationships, fund-raising ethics, public invocations, and much, much more. This is an impressively useful book. Nelson, United Theological Seminary "With wisdom borne from years of their own ministries in seminary and parish, Wiest and Smith have given us not only solid insight into issues of integrity in ministry, but into the complex and theological nature of the profession of ministry itself. No individual can evade responsibility for ethical decisions.
The person and words of Christ Compounding the crisis, our contemporary society does not appreciate that genuine ministry is not dependent on outward appearances nor external circumstances. The rapid transitions of contemporary society have blurred definitions of ministry. This encourages hypocrisy and the lack of ministerial integrity.
Ethics in Ministry: A Guide for the Professional | Fortress Press
Ministry is in ethical crisis. Heightening the dilemma is the fact the crisis is generally unseen, even by many church leaders and ministers. Ministry interviews seldom ask about personal spiritual health and growth. Few ministerial training programs require a spiritual-formation component. The significant requirement of spiritual reflection and formation in ministerial training is the exception not the rule.
Have we forgotten that spiritual leaders must be spiritual? Without spiritual focus, spiritual famine will come. Genuine ministry is fraught with frailty, frustration, and even failure. The greatest failure, however, may be seeking power for ministry in the physical rather than the spiritual realm.
How should ministry be measured?
There are two opposite extremes. On one hand, worldly standards of success often replace spiritual evaluation.
Some churches fail to appreciate effective ministry in their demand for numerical results. On the other hand, some churches and ministers fail to understand the power and potential of effective ministry and suffer because of their low expectations. The ultimate measurement of ministry is faithfulness to God. Ministry that is faithful to God never fails. His Word never returns empty. Our society and churches often buy into the worldly mindset more than we like to admit. We frequently have expectations that do not appreciate the elastic, flexible nature of ministry.
We do not know with certainty whether ministers work for God or for churches. We affirm the former, but often practice the latter. How did we get here? The ethical crisis is also a truth crisis. Significant shifts in the behaviors, beliefs, and values of Western culture have contributed to this crisis, including privatization, humanism, relativism, secularization, and pluralism. The result is the moral crisis in our nation.
Leaders in government, business, and sports are charged with various illegal and immoral acts. Church leaders are caught in unethical behaviors and activities. Our nation has lost its moral footing. Clearly, the crisis in ministerial ethics is part of a larger crisis. An examination of the effects of privatization, humanism, relativism, secularization, and pluralism will explain how this moral crisis occurred. Privatization in our Western world moved religion and ministry from the public to the private arena which resulted in a loss of responsibility.
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Our teaching of ethics has not kept up with the rapid advances in our world. Our world and our churches have experienced a loss of values through humanism. In the past, the church generally taught ethics by focusing on behaviors more than values or beliefs. For example, when my children were young, I taught them not to play between the sidewalk and the street behavior. Later, I taught them how to distinguish safe and unsafe places and activities values. If I know what is wrong but not why it is wrong, I cannot make valid decisions when new options are presented.
The value shift in our society must be addressed. Formerly, exposure in the public arena was a deterrent to pornography and other unethical or illicit activities. In the private arena, such checks are removed. Restoring Christian ethics will demand that we clearly connect behaviors ethics , values, and truth beliefs. Our world and our churches have experienced a loss of truth, an erosion of the principle base through relativism.
If truth is relative, there is no objective truth.
Enrichment Journal - Enriching and Equipping Spirit-filled Ministers
If there is no objective truth, no one can say with certainty that any behavior is right or wrong. Despite the discomfort of making truth claims that prove other religions, or even other Christian religious groups, false, the church cannot afford to deny the truth. David Wells has outlined the impact on a society and its future when truth claims are lacking. We have experienced a loss of mystery in the continuing secularization of religion.
A poor spiritual focus results from a lack of spiritual training. The ultimate result is a totally secular version of Christianity, a result I fear may not be far away for some groups.
Implications For 21st-Century Ministers
Our churches have lost some of their identity through pluralism. In a world of relative truth, secularized religion, lack of mystery, and loss of values, we hardly know who we are or why we exist. Finding a solution to the crisis in ministerial ethics will not be easy. Encouraging ethical ministry requires focus in two areas — ministers and ministry. How can we develop ethical ministers and ministries? To begin, we must recognize that ethics is not only a minister issue, but also is a church issue.
Churches build ministers as much as ministers build churches. Churches shape ministers and ministry by their expectations and demands. Churches must believe in powerful ministry. Ministers must develop purposeful ministries. We will not restore ethics in ministry until we understand the reasons for its loss. Ethics sits at the top of the principles-values-ethics pyramid. Our worldview principle base informs and supports our values that in turn determine our behaviors.
Changes in worldview occur slowly in cultures or societies through a complicated process. It is unlikely that we will redefine the worldview of our society quickly or reverse the slide into relativity. Thus the question is asked how ministers and ministry must change and how the required change can be accomplished.
Restoring ethics in ministry demands clear belief systems for ministers and churches, and the identification and reaffirmation of Christian values. We must learn to think like Christ to develop Christian values and behaviors. First, we must provide better training for ministers. The church must demand adequately prepared ministers. What is an adequate ministerial training model for producing capable, competent ministers? While it is true that every Christian can serve, and many can stand and talk before a class, ministry demands more.
Noyce12 summarizes the responsibility of ministry as three-fold — keeping our promises, honoring our commitments, and maintaining moral lifestyles. A step toward these responsibilities is the inclusion of ethics in ministerial training models. Our ministry training schools must teach that ministry is principle-based and values-driven. We must help ministers develop Christian attitudes and learn how to live by Christian principles and values. We must demand training that addresses the personal spiritual life; develops a Christian worldview that defines and trains for thinking like Christ; and connects beliefs, values, and ethics.
Ministers must emerge from their training with a strong commitment to personal spirituality, blameless character, and morality above reproach. Second, we must hold ministers accountable for their ministry. Ministry does not always produce the desired results, but ministers should be accountable for their lives, study, and ministry activities.
We must encourage a greater openness in those who minister, and willingness in the church to let them be human, confess weaknesses, and receive loving support from the church. Finally, ethical ministry requires ministers committed to ministry, who know that the rewards as the world measures success may be few, but that the job is worth doing and can be done. Only when I believe in what I am doing can I find the strength to develop the mind of Christ and to live by the principles and values of Christ.
Churches must commit to developing better support systems for ministry and better understandings of ministers. Churches build ministers more than ministers build churches. What steps should the church take to help recover ethical ministry? First, the church must demand the integration of principles, values, and ethics in the lives of those who minister. Ethics is concrete; every Christian is responsible for character.
Second, the church should focus on and demand accountability for the task of ministry rather than the results. Churches must be prepared to support ministry and to help set reasonable expectations for accomplishment. Third, churches must strive to develop an open atmosphere that encourages honesty and vulnerability among all Christians, including those who minister, allowing all to be human.
Ethical ministry demands that members and ministers go into the world guided by Christian ethics. Fifth, churches must develop a better understanding of ministry. Each fall, I preach at least one sermon on the nature of ministry. My church needs to understand ministry and to understand my ministry. I am accountable to them; they are my support system.
Sixth, the church must develop a fellowship that allows the minister to become an authentic part of the local congregation. Finally, the church must ever be ethical in its treatment of ministers, members, one another, and the world. These simple steps will not solve every problem, but they can start the church down the road to restored confidence in ministry.
Ministers will live better, preach and teach better.
Ministers will be better ministers. Ministers will find a support base from church leaders, a better understanding of their role, and will be better able to meet the challenges of their congregation. The church will enjoy better teaching and preaching. The church will benefit from powerful ministries that touch lives.
Finally, the world will be encouraged by ethical ministry to believe in Jesus. When ministers believe in themselves and churches believe in ministry, the result will be a world that believes in Christ. Ministers must act responsibly as we wrestle with our theology and ethic of ministry. We are called to be moral guides to help form a moral people. Young currently serves as masters of divinity program director at Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He maintains an active website with various ministry resources and is involved in several writing projects.
He speaks regularly in seminars, lectureships, and special presentations. He is also involved in several missions efforts. Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: Primer in Christian Ethics Notre Dame: Notre Dame Press, , 1.