Ministerial Ethics. Monday Monologues, March 18, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020 (Ken Burtram Photography)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I will offer a Prayer for Pastors and talk about the Ministerial Ethics.

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Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Ministerial Ethics. Monday Monologues, March 18, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

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Ministerial Ethics

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Living in Christ

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Pastors point people to God. Everything else they do is a means to that end.

Because God is ever-present in our lives, it takes special insight to become aware of God’s Shekinah cloud in everyday life:

“Shekinah is Hebrew word that refers to a collective vision that brings together dispersed fragments of divinity. It is usually understood as a light-disseminating presence bringing an awareness of God to a time and place where God is not expected to be—a place…God’s personal presence—and filled that humble, modest, makeshift, sorry excuse for a temple with glory.” (Peterson 2011, 100-101)

Without assistance, people are more likely to see Harvey, the six foot invisible rabbit,⁠1 which makes the pastor’s role unique. 

The insight required of pastors is ironically not unique to pastors is a Christian mindset where everything is evaluated relative to Christ. While the world around us thinks of this attitude as obsession, it is a Christian distinctive seldom tolerated even among pastors. Blamires (2005, 148) writes:

“For if the Christian faith is true, and the Christian church the authoritative vehicle of salvation in time, then it is the most urgent, inescapable need of the modern [and postmodern] world to adapt itself to the church [not the other way around].”

Elsewhere I have described this mindset this way: Jesus is my denominator—the measure of all things. Without this mindset, the Shekinah cloud becomes invisible like Harvey and salvation disappears and becomes illusive, out of reach. Pastors unable to bring it back to view morph into beggars, social workers, and purveyors of religious entertainment, depending on your default prejudices.

Pastoring by the Numbers

The bane of pastors is the paying of bills.

If you take the Jewish concept of a minion and combine it will the tithe, you get an interesting transition into the Old Testament answer to financing a Rabbi. In order to hold a worship service in the Jewish tradition, a Rabbi needed ten adult men—a minion. If each of these men paid the tithe (which was an obligatory ten percent of income), then the Rabbi would enjoy the same living standard as the average person in his minion.

In a typical American church, people given an average of about one person of their income. This implies that a pastor’s minion is about a hundred families, which is coincidently the size of a typical church. This source of mathematics then suggests why we have seen the growth of mega churches who host a large pastoral staff and can offer numerous programs and quality music in worship.

The problem with this arrangement is that pointing someone to God requires intimate knowledge of the person in question, acquired only through spend time with them. This was entirely likely for a Rabbi with this minion, but seems far fetched for a pastor with his minions. Intimate communication cannot be one-way communication.

Other Duties as Assigned

The Book of Order 2007/2009 of the Presbyterian Church (USA) describes the duties of a pastor in these terms:

“The permanent pastoral officers of ministers of the Word and Sacrament are pastors and associate pastors. When a minister of the Word and Sacrament is called as a pastor or associate pastor of a particular church or churches, she or he is to be responsible for a quality of life and relationships that commend the Gospel to all persons and that communicate its joy and its justice. The pastor is responsible for studying, teaching, and preaching the Word, for administrating Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, for praying with and for the congregation. With the elders, the pastor is to encourage the people in the worship and service of God, to equip and enable them for their tasks within the church and their mission in the world; to exercise pastoral care, devoting special attention to the poor, the sick, the troubled, and the dying; to participate in governing responsibilities, including leadership of the congregation in implementing the principles of participation and inclusiveness in the decision making of the church, and its task of reaching out in concern and service to the life of the human community as a whole. With the deacons the pastor is to share in the ministries of sympathy, witness, and service. In addition to these pastoral duties, he or she is responsible for sharing in the ministry of the church in the governing bodies above the session and in ecumenical relationships.” (PCUSA 2007, G-6.0202b)

The responsibilities unique to pastors are in practice the administration of the sacraments. Other responsibilities, including preaching, teaching, leadership, and pastoral care, are shared with others in the church.⁠2 

Note the bureaucratic nature of the above pastoral definition. First, terms are defined. The office of pastor (and associate pastor) is defined as permanent. Assistant pastors are neither called nor permanent. Second, the call is focused on modeling a quality of life and relationships of the Gospel (not God). Third, responsibility include studying, teaching, and preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, and praying for the congregation. God himself is not mentioned until the fourth sentence where God appears in the phrase: “the worship and service of God.”

The point of discussing other duties as assigned is that the ethics of pastoring requires a clear focus on God in all that we do that can sometimes be hard to maintain within the institution of the church.

Case Studies in Ministry

While ministry is often treated as something of a mystery, it is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with practice. One way to improve on ministry practice is to work as team and to encourage the team to reflect on and discuss events that do not go as planned using a case study approach. 

In their book, Shared Wisdom, A Guide to Case Study Reflection, authors Jeffrey Mahan, Barbara Troxell, and Carol Allen (MTA; 1993, 12-19) see the goal of case studies is to equip a presenter of the case study to return to ministry with greater insight and confidence in themselves and in God’s provision and protection.

Case studies are most helpful when they assist participants in learning from their mistakes, but, of course, focusing on mistakes requires that one first admit to them. In a world in which politicians and celebrities daily lose their jobs over a single mistake, even in the church it is totally counter-cultural to admit to and talk about mistakes. The need for confidentially is accordingly multifaceted—both those studied and those bringing forth the study need to have the process treated confidentially.

MTA (1993, 116-117) recommend a case composed of five parts:

1. Background. Usually a case study focuses on a specific event that requires some context be provided.

2. Description. In describing the event, usual dialogue is given to illustrate what happened and how the presenter responded.

3. Analysis. “Identify issues and relationships, with special attention to changes and resistance to change.”

4. Evaluation. The presenter assesses their performance–what worked, what did not work, and why.

5. Theological Reflection. How does our faith inform this event?

A case is about two pages single-spaced and the presentation should run about an hour.

While the ideal setting for discussion of case studies is with a ministry team, a modified case study can also be useful in writing about ministry. Clearly, the choice of events to study is critical in revealing strengths and weaknesses in ministry. In writing about actual people, however, the case study may need to be recast as a study of a biblical or fictional character in such a way that identity of the persons involved is maintained. In preaching, this often ends up being an “I know a person who” story that frequently is a circumlocution for the pastor giving the talk (Savage 1996, 89-92).

1 This is an allusion to a movie called Harvey about a man who sees a six-foot, invisible rabbit and is committed to an insane asylum until others start seeing the rabbit for themselves. Harvey is a 1950 American comedy-drama film based on Mary Chase’s play of the same name, directed by Henry Koster, and starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull (

2 Note that because the Book of Order is frequently amended, the title includes a date and the terminology often changes, even for the title of pastor. I cite this polity document as an example primarily because I am familiar with it and not because it is a model for other denominations.


Blamires, Harry. 2005. The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? (Orig Pub 1963) Vancouver: Regent College Publishing.

Mahan, Jeffrey H., Barbara B. Troxell, and Carol J. Allen (MTA). 1993. Shared Wisdom: A Guide to Case Study Reflection in Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Peterson, Eugene H.  2011. The Pastor: A Memoir. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PC USA). 2007. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—Part II: Book of Order, 2007/2009. Louisville, KY: Office of the General Assembly.

Savage, John. 1996. Listening & Caring Skills: A Guide for Groups and Leaders. Nashville:  Abingdon Press.

Ministerial Ethics

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Guinness Enthralls the Called

Os Guinness, The Call

Guinness Enthralls the Called

Os Guinness. 2003. The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

A friend who knows me well, once remarked that my reviews are not so much reviews as commentaries. True enough—I do not fashion myself as a critic so much as a student of the authors that I read. Too many critics that I have known cannot write which, Kant aside, gives them little to work with as critics other than a haughty disposition. But because one must invariably read beyond one’s own talents as a writer, humility is a much more honest starting point. Such is the case for anyone reading Os Guinness’ book, The Call.


Guinness states his purpose in writing with these words:

“This book is for all who long to find and fulfill the purpose of their lives.” (4)

Interestingly, even before setting out this mission statement, Guinness argues that life’s purposes are summarized in three perspectives: (1) the Eastern answer—forget it and forget yourself; (2) the secular answer—life has no meaning so invent one yourself; and (3) the biblical answer—we are created in the image of God and he calls us to himself. (viii-ix). While Guinness displays an encyclopedic understanding of all three of these perspectives,[1] the center of the onion that he peels in this book is God’s call.

Guinness’ encyclopedic understanding is possibly an inherited trait. Guinness recounts the story of one eighteen year-old Jane Lucretia D’Esterre, Guinness’ great-great-grandmother, who distraught over the death of her husband in 1815 in a duel, gave up the thought of suicide through drowning as she stood on a riverbank because she noticed the son of a neighbor plowing a field. “Meticulous, absorbed, skilled, he displayed such as pride in his work that the newly turned furrows looked as finely execute as the paint strokes on an artist’s canvas.” (184) Mind you, this young man plowed with a team of horses that have a mind of their own!

The Splendor of the Ordinary

While I might attribute this distraction as a divine intervention, Guinness describes the incident as demonstrating how: “calling transforms life so that even the commonplace and menial are invested with the splendor of the ordinary.” (185) Soon after this incident, his eagle-eyed, great-great-grandmother came to faith, suggesting that she also saw God in this incident. Much like God drew the Prophet Jeremiah to the work of a potter (Jer 18:1-6), this young woman saw God’s hand in a plowman’s furrows.

Arthur Burns’ Prayer

The onion peeling characteristic of Guinness’ prose arises because he examines aspects of God’s call through narratives of famous people. One example that, as a recovering economist, I will not soon forget begins with story of Arthur Burns, a former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Burns began attending an informal White House prayer group, where he was routinely passed over in leading prayer because he had a Jewish background. When finally asked to pray, he prayed:

“Lord, I pray that you would bring Jews to know Jesus Christ. I pray that you would bring Muslims to know Jesus Christ. Finally, Lord, I pray that you would bring Christians to know Jesus Christ, Amen.” (101)

Three Lessons

Guinness sees at least three lessons to be learned from this incident:

  1. “…calling by its very nature reminds us that we are only followers of Christ when in fact we follow Jesus…
  2. a calling reminds us that to be ‘a follower of the Way’ is to see life as a journey, which, while we are still alive on the earth, is an incomplete journey that cannot be finally assessed…
  3. calling reminds us that, recognizing all the different stages people are at, there are many more who are followers of Jesus and on the Way than we realize.” (105-108)

These are, in fact, tough lessons that, in my experience, need to be learned over and over again, and that, reflecting back on Guinness, bear the markings of both patient scholarship and personal travel.

Deeper than Most

As someone working on the third edit of a memoir devoted that task, I found myself spending more time in refreshing my memory of this book than I would spend reading other texts. For me, Guinness’ tying of the call to finishing well was especially meaningful.(227) He makes three points:

  1. “…calling is the spur that keeps us journeying purposefully…
  2. a calling helps us to finish well because it prevents us from confusing the termination of our occupations with the termination of our vocation…
  3. calling helps us finish well because it encourages us to leave the entire outcome of our lives to God.” (228-231)


Os Guinness’ book, The Call, is a fine read for any Christian, but especially those struggling with the meaning of their own call. Be prepared to be enthralled.

[1] If you do not believe me, read his account of spending six months traveling the “hippy trail” visiting “Kabul, Goa, Benares, Rishikesh, Katmado, and Thailand” (146). One would need to be rather dense not to learn something in such as trip about Eastern philosophy.

Also see:

The Christian Memoir 

Karr Voices Memoir Clearly 

Books, Films, and Ministry

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18. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webAlmighty Father,

We give thanks for the gift of faith and the call into ministry which reaches out to our family, friends, and beyond. Guard our hearts in times of weakness, hardship, and temptation. Keep our mind sharp that we offer you our praise with clarity, coherence, and dedication, not tainted by vain desires, cultural confusion, or subtle idolatries. Grant us a spirit of meekness, a spirit of humility seated deeply in our character—not loosely held, superficially worn, or overshadowed by cherished sins. Place in us hearts eager to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. Give us the strength to provide a sacrificial hospitality to those around us. In the face of suffering, make your Holy Spirit especially visible that we would not fail in our ministry due to temptations to be relevant, powerful, or spectacular in the eyes of those in our care. In the strong name of Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Savior. Amen.

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Myrtle Beach Ministry: 3,000 Opportunities at Stake…by Stefan and Ellie Sultanov


Myrtle Beach Ministry

By Stefan and Ellie Sultanov

Our guest bloggers today, Stefan and Ellie Sultanov, are a ministry team from Bulgaria and fellow classmates of mine at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.  Their post focuses on a unique ministry that they initiated among international students working in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Myrtle Beach Ministry

In recent years the immigration law and reform in the U.S. have been a hot issue. Politicians have taken sides and so have voters. But what about us as Christians? It is enough to just side with our preferred political party when it comes to foreigners?  There are also no doubt legal implications. But what about the spiritual implications?  In this brief post I will address one with eternal significance.

Ministry Backstory

Our story began in 2008 when Ellie and I began a 5-year ministry to international students while working at Myrtle Beach, SC on a work-and-travel program. According to local news statistics, there are some 3,000 international students that flood Myrtle Beach each summer. Most of them come from Eastern Europe which, of course, includes a large number of Bulgarians. During our summer outreach each year, we came in contact with Bulgarian, Russian, Moldovan, Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Turkish students.

Our strategy was quite simple. Over the summer we developed relationships with students by inviting them for meals at our home, watching movies together, fixing their bicycles, and taking them shopping.  Because they only used bicycles for transportation, we drove them on short trips to visit other places and even took some to church with us. And we talked and talked.

We had countless opportunities to share the Good News with them. Remember, these young people came from former communist countries. Most of them had never heard about God or held a Bible in their hands. Most of them had no sense of spirituality.  At best, they might share some vague understanding of eastern religions or their personal philosophy of life.

Still, at Myrtle Beach some took significant steps forward in their spiritual journey. Some decided to follow Jesus Christ right by the beach.  Others began the thought process and later took the final step with someone else in their lives.


Over the years we looked for other people and churches who might share in this ministry.  This seemed like a perfect opportunity for international evangelism that does not require travel or the need to send missionaries overseas. Still, we were unable to identify any ministry partners. Then, about three years back, we talked with a pastor of a local church that is strategically located in the middle of Myrtle Beach.  He was excited about the opportunity. We offered to outline the whole project and to train a ministry team.  However, our timing is not always God’s timing.

A few months ago, missions people from that same church contacted us to learn more about this ministry. We got together for breakfast and emotions ran wild!  This group was as passionate about missions among the visiting students as we are.  Soon, a mission group from that church plans an organizational meeting where we will be able to present our ministry experience.

*****Please pray that God will give us utterance–the ability to share passionately, fully inspired by the Holy Spirit–at this meeting.*****

We are excited that this ministry will come back with more resources than we were ever able to offer. God knows how many students would be impacted by a more systematic, more sustained, outreach effort.


Stefan’s passion is building deep and long-lasting friendships, teaching and discipleship.

Currently, Stefan is a full-time student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (–Charlotte, North Carolina. He completed a Master of Divinity degree (Magna cum Laude) and is now finishing a Master of Arts in Christian Counseling degree. Stefan also holds a Master of Arts in French Language and Literature and prior to becoming a seminary student he has worked as a private language tutor and worship leader. He is a founding member of Holy Trinity Bulgarian Free Church in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.


Stefan was born and raised in communist Bulgaria where he had a first-hand experience of living under an atheist dictatorship. Shortly after the fall of the regime, when he was only 14, he responded to an altar call and gave his life to Christ. Stefan’s early ministry experience includes working with worship teams, children’s work, orphanage visitations and open air evangelism. While serving the Lord in different capacities, he started sensing a special call from God to pursue a seminary education.


Ellie has a special heart for evangelism, discipleship, counseling, and the persecuted underground church around the world.

Currently, Ellie is completing a Dual degree – Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts in Christian Counseling at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary-Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ellie grew up in Bulgaria while the country was still under communism. After the fall of the regime Ellie began attending church with her parents which marked the beginning of her family’s journey with God. Shortly after, Ellie’s parents became some of the first full-time missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ International in Bulgaria ( – a ministry they have been working with for nearly twenty years now. Ellie’s point of conversion came at a winter children’s camp organized by Child Evangelism Fellowship where she gave her life to Christ at the age of 9. Ellie traveled with her father extensively throughout the country to show the Jesus Film, evangelize and preach ( Ellie witnessed for Christ to people around her and her spiritual identity became deeply ingrained.

Read Stefan and Ellie’s full stories at

For other ministry in Eastern Europe, see: A New Life in an Old Land by Thomas Smith

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Social Media Enhances Ministry

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sharron Beg
Art by Sharron Beg

The Capital Christian Writers club ( meets bi-monthly in Fairfax, VA.  The September meeting focused on creating a blog.  While I came to the meeting to network, I left the meeting convinced that blogging would simplify online ministry.

I also left experiencing a bit of fear.

Yes. I have had a website forever.  Yes. I have different accounts—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—but I was clueless about how to use these accounts in ministry.  I opened a Facebook account when I started seminary and was invited to join a group online.  I opened a Twitter account just before the PCUSA’s General Assembly last year.  I have no clue how or when I opened the LinkedIn account.  The fear arose because I did not want to become famous online for reasons that only my kids would understand!

So I bought some books and started reading.  First, I set up a free blog on  Second, I registered a web address to look a bit more sophisticated:  This acronym is short for To Deuteron Pneuma or The Second Wind in English.  Third, I matched my Twitter account address to the blog (@T2Pneuma).  And, fourth, I also opened a matching Gmail email account:  The basic idea is to create a simple online identity that can serve as a personal, brand image in cyberspace.

A blog offers several advantages over a website.  The first advantage is that it is requires no programming and automates most features.   My website ( is built from scratch in Microsoft Word and offers no bells and whistles.  A second advantage is that a blog displays recent articles up front and that allows you to time when articles are posted.  A third advantage is that the blog allows readers to subscribe (or following) to the blog and receive an automatic email when you update the blog.  A final advantage  is that  blog keeps basic statistics on how many people visit the blog and which articles they read.  (My website service also keeps such statistics, but they are kept on a separate website).  Having traffic statistics is a big selling point with publishers. also makes it easy to link with other social media.  When I post an article to the blog, the blog can automatically generate a small blurb with a link and post it in my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.  Facebook speaks primarily to your family and close friends; Twitter speaks directly to the under thirty crowd on the cell-phone; LinkedIn speaks into your office crowd presenting an evangelism opportunity not usually open during business hours.

All these features offer hope that I can migrate my email mailing lists to the blog over the coming weeks.

So what is my writing project?  My book is entitled:  A Christian Guide to Spirituality.  It consists of 50 apologetic devotionals focused on the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostle’s Creed.  Learn more by visiting–—and clicking on the menu title called:  Guide.  The book is currently under review and I am looking for a publisher.


To subscribe to my blog (, pull it up in your browser.  At the bottom right corner, you will see a button entitled:  FOLLOW.  Click it and enter your email address in the box.  My blog will send an email to you at that address.  Be sure to confirm that email when it arrives.

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