April 20, 2014

The Relational Pastor, part 9

For other posts in this series, click on a number: 1234567, 8.

This is being posted on Easter. Rejoice, Jesus is risen (and now working--let's join in)!

Incarnational Ministry? (moving beyond models to reality)

For the original use of this picture, click here.
This post, the ninth in a series exploring The Relational Pastor, highlights Andrew Root's disagreement with the currently popular ministry model often referred to as "incarnational ministry." Authors advocating this model write about "incarnating ourselves into people's lives," and being "Jesus with skin on." This view of Christian ministry comes from viewing our Lord's incarnation as God's ministry strategy that we are to emulate ("be incarnational like Jesus"). But that view of the incarnation and thus of Christian ministry has significant problems.

The incarnation, by which the Son of God became flesh (adding our humanity to his divinity), was not God's ministry strategy--it was not a tool he used to move us toward a particular goal. Rather, the incarnation was simply and profoundly this: To become one of us in order to be God in union with us. The personal union forged by the incarnation is not a temporary means to another end, but the end (the goal/telos) itself by which we are saved. If we misunderstand this truth about the incarnation, we will be tempted to adopt ministry strategies (such as "incarnational ministry") as the means to some other end. In doing so, we will risk missing the fundamental meaning of the incarnation and thus risk missing the reality (the life and personal encounter) that is the essential content of all authentic Christian ministry. Root comments:
The problem with a [ministry] model is that it doesn't live, or better, it possesses no reality of its own. It's a mere replica, a scaled-down, less dynamic simulation of the thing itself....[focusing] on details and ideas instead of the life, instead of the person. It focuses on the functions of Jesus [rather than] encountering the living Jesus as person. And pastoral ministry...should always by about helping persons encounter the dynamic incarnate person, not a cardboard reproduction. And though this is harder, it makes ministry worth doing.... To make the reproduction of a model the purpose of ministry risks cutting out the very heart of the personal; it threatens to lose the person in the reproduction of the model, to make loyalty to the model the point. When this happens we risk losing the empathetic impulse that draws person to person as embodied spirit. We can miss the other's humanity because our eyes are on reproducing the model, getting the model really humming, which can draw our attention away from the person. Based on the reproduced model, we fall into the trap of ends...setting the terms for ministry (pp112-113).
Quoting Douglas Hall, Root notes that "Jesus said 'Follow me!' not 'Follow a model-for-ministry that I am leaving behind for you'....The church does not 'extend' [the] life of the Christ into a world in and to which the Christ himself is no longer present" (p113). Once again, Root is reminding us that ministry is not about mimicking Jesus (being "incarnational" like Jesus), but about sharing in the continuing ministry of the living, forever incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Therefore, rather than looking to Scripture for a definitive, one-size-fits-all model of ministry, we should look to Scripture to help us encounter the person of Jesus who is alive and ministering through the Spirit in our world. As we do so, we are drawn into sharing in his continuing person to person ministry. Root continues:
The incarnation is not a model but the fullness of God's action to reveal the Word (the very communication of Godself) as the person of Jesus Christ; to reveal Godself through the personal actions of Jesus Christ, who become broken for us (1 Cor 11:24). This personal reality cannot be repetitively reproduced. When it is we risk that in continued reproduction it loses the dynamic of the person, becoming generic as we find ourself in the rut of doing functions to reproduce a model. In this rut we miss the mystery of the spirit of the person; we risk passing over the very place where God's action is encountered. We cleave to a model and lose the relationship--the place for divine encounter--making relationships only a stale, strategic component of the model... The relationship with people becomes disposable when it is no longer needed, or stands in opposition to the functions of the model. The point of ministry becomes successful reproduction of the model, and not encountering divine action (p114).
Example ministry model
This is not to say that ministry models (like the one shown above) are wrong, particularly when they are used prayerfully and flexibly. However, when models (and the strategies, programs and other ministry tools associated with them) become the focus of ministry, they lose their reason for being, which is to open "spaces" and "places" wherein personal encounter may occur. God became flesh not to leave us a ministry model to emulate, but to be with us (in personal encounter) forever. Root comments:
Incarnation is fundamentally about sharing in the life of another...God takes on flesh because God desires for us to share in God's life, for us to be with God.... God becomes incarnate so that we, through Jesus' humanity, may share in the relationship of Father to Son, the relationship that makes God God... The point of the incarnation then is the union of indwelling... The church and ministry then become about a community of person that shares in each other's lives as a way of sharing in God's own [life] (pp115-116).
This person-to-person encounter/sharing is not a strategy but "an event...[by which we are] pulled into God's very presence" (p117). To share with Jesus in his encounter with other persons is thus the essence of Christian ministry. As we saw last time, this is the reason that empathy is an attribute of effective pastors, for empathy is the impulse toward incarnational action. Through empathy we "feel our way into another's person... to be empathetic is to indwell another, to encounter his or her person" (p118).

This personal/relational encounter, which is the essence of ministry, originates in the being of God who, himself, is a communion of three persons who indwell one another. Said more simply, "God is a relationship" (p119). This profound truth is the essence of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, which should shape our understanding of ministry and all our ministry actions as being our sharing in the life and love of God--sharing with him in his sharing in the lives of other human persons.

Root takes these profound insights and boils them down to this definition of ministry:
Ministry is the gift given to us by God to share in God's life, to participate in God's action as we share in the person of others. Ministry is the gift of being a person, to dwell in doubt, fear and need, inviting others to indwell us as we indwell them. Ministry is God's gift to us, the gift of leading others in sharing in the life of God (p125).
This idea of ministry as a gift will be the focus of the next post in this series. Stay tuned.

April 13, 2014

The Relational Pastor, part 8

For other posts in this series, click on a number: 123, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9.

Empathy: the incarnate reality of place sharing

In part 7 of this series exploring The Relational Pastor by Andrew Root, we noted that Jesus' place sharing ministry is the outworking of his indwelling of humanity. This incarnational ministry of Jesus then points to our own, for we are called as Christians to participate with Jesus in his ongoing place sharing ministry. Our participation is fundamentally relational, because the triune God, who is relational, has created us in his relational image. As Root likes to say, "We are our relationships." It follows that relationship is the principal "location" where Jesus' ministry and thus ours occurs. This being so, a key characteristic of effective pastors is the personal quality that we refer to as empathy. Here is Root's definition (and another, from a different source, is shown in the box below):
[Empathy is] the experience of feeling (often involuntarily) the very relationships that make a person. Empathy is a feeling that touches the relationships that make us, a magnet that draws our person to another's. Empathy, as a feeling, is how we experience the ontological relationships that make a person. Because it is the feeling of another's person through their relationships, empathy is the feeling of spirit. Empathy is the spiritual reality that takes us into, that moves us to indwell, another. It is a deep feeling of spirit that pulls us from ourselves to others (p91).
Empathy is the antithesis, in fact the enemy, of the individualism that permeates our culture and, sadly, often our churches. Why? Because empathy moves us to see beyond ourselves and to indwell another. But what if a pastor is not particularly empathetic--are they doomed to ineffectiveness? Root comments:
The pastor...need not be the most empathetic person in the church, but should be the one thinking about how to set the space for facilitating those kinds of encounters. And this begins by finding ways for people to tell their stories, to share the relationships that make them them (p94). 
Empathy goes beyond formal knowledge (IQ) and relates to what is sometimes referred to as Emotional Intelligence (EQ) [for more about EQ, click here]. Empathy is about subjects and is bound in emotions, whereas sympathy is about objects and is bound in rational thought. Sympathy can know, but in knowing can stand on the sidelines. But empathy feels in ways that move us to indwell--to place share.

The neuroscience of empathy
In unpacking the nature of empathy, Root points to the findings of neuroscience, which among other things, tell us that laughter promotes empathy. Neurologically, "laughing represents the shortest distance between two people because it instantly interlocks limbic systems." Laughter literally wires our brains together: "People that laugh together indwell each other. Laughter is a form of empathy that when done with (not at), connects spirit" (p98). Another expression of empathy is the hug. We value laughing and hugging as expressions of empathy because God has equipped us to feel what others feel. He has "wired" us in such a way that we are able literally to read each other's minds:
Our brains are wired to connect: our brains only work...when we are connected. Synapses fire when they encounter the actions and communication of other minds. Science reveals that there is no such thing as an individual, independent mind; our brains are social organs that only work when we (when our minds) are in relationship.... In living in relationship our brains literally connect; they wire together, shaping each other. Empathy, these scientists agree, is a particularly powerful feeling, formed in the brain to allow us to connect our minds to others. Empathy may be formed in the brain, but it is nevertheless spiritual because it sends minds to indwell, to literally connect with other minds (p105).
Physiologically, this connecting of minds occurs in the brain's mirror neurons, which lead us to mirror each other. In conversation, we subconsciously mimick the other person as a way of sharing, thus indwelling the other person. You move your hand in a certain way and I mirror that. In that way we "feel" each other--we participate in one another's feelings--we "read" each other's minds. This is empathy at work.

Created for empathy
As embodied spirits, God created us in body (mirror neurons) and in spirit for empathy. This being so, the more we are together in relationship, the more we literally share in each other's minds. Sadly, our sinful nature rails against this empathy; this deep sharing that is the essence of fulfilling our design to be bearers of God's relational image. Sin pulls us away from empathy toward its opposite, which is competition and comparison where fear rather than love is the driving feeling. "Fear believes that the point of human existence is safety, is self-fulfillment, is your own interest" (p103). And fear leads ultimately to isolation--to living outside of relationship--to loneliness.

Instead of practicing empathy (loving our neighbor as ourself--Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27), our sinful inclination is to draw away, or in staying near to pollute the other person--to thrust anxiety and fear into them (pp103, 108). In these ways we "miss the mark" (we "sin") and thus miss out on the very purpose for life and ministry, which is to share in human relationships, for relationship is the "location" where we share in each other and Jesus, thus sharing together in the life and love of God (p108). Thus ministry of all kinds, and pastoral ministry in particular is about sharing in Jesus' place sharing, incarnational ministry. We'll discuss the idea of "incarnational ministry" next time.

April 5, 2014

The Relational Pastor, part 7

For other posts in this series, click on a number: 123, 4, 5, 6, 89.

Place sharing: the outworking of indwelling

In part 6 of this series exploring The Relational Pastor, we concluded with Andrew Root's observation that ministry finds its "lifeblood" in the reality of personhood. Ministry is life-giving when it is authentic participation in the place sharing ministry of Jesus, who as our High Priest, is relating to human persons as we truly are: beings-in-relationship.

Jesus' indwelling, place sharing ministry
is powerfully illustrated by Ron DiCianni
in this evocative painting entitled The Leper.
Root expands on this important concept by noting that place sharing is the outworking of indwelling. In explaining what this means, he asks a rhetorical question: "How could there possibly be something called ministry that violates or ignores the dynamic spiritual mystery of personal indwelling?" In answering, Root offers this comment:
To be ministered to is to have another person see our person and indwell it, to share with us as we bury our sister, as we fight for one more day of life, as we celebrate the birth of a long-awaited child. When we say "The pastor really ministered to me today," we mean that we experienced the pastor sharing in us, giving his person to our own so that we might recognize the presence of God. To minister is to indwell through relationship, to follow the indwelling ministry of God who becomes the God of Israel and the child in the manger to save us by indwelling us. 
For person to encounter person is to indwell one another, to be drawn into the spiritual through the social. But unlike the organic process, where indwelling means consuming, in the spiritual process to indwell is to share in. It is opening your being to be touched (and even transformed) by what is not you, by what you give yourself to in relationship (p74).
The word we typically use to speak of this indwelling is love, which Jesus equated with indwelling in his discourse the night before he died. First he spoke of love (John 14:15, 21, 23) then of indwelling, using the metaphor of vine and branches, to urge his followers to "abide" in him as he would  "abide" in them (John 15:4-5 KJV). To "abide" is to "indwell," and this is love. Root comments:
This mutual indwelling [abiding] cannot be missed. It is for Paul the heart of the gospel, which is why for Paul love is greater than faith and hope. Love is greater because love indwells, because love shares completely in persons. Persons indwell others, because to be a person is to love" (p75).
In essence, we are what we share in. In John 15, Jesus is showing us that, in love and for love, he shares our life and we are invited to share his--"to indwell him as he indwells us" (p75). As Root notes, there is something wonderfully sacramental here, as is vividly portrayed in Communion:
[In communion] we consume the body of Jesus, participating in indwelling organically, spiritually and socially... Indwelling is so central that we are to take Jesus' body and blood into our own; his person fully indwelling us (p75).
Root then restates the definition of personhood that we've noted in earlier posts:
A person is his or her relationships because persons always share in others' lives, a person always indwells other persons... It is indwelling another that gives us our personhood... To be a person is to share in the indwelling of another (p75).
Root then goes deeper by examining the reality that under-girds this definition of personhood as indwelling. That reality is not a what, but a who--the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ:
In becoming human, Jesus indwells completely our humanity. The divine and human natures indwell each other in the very person of Jesus. For us to participate in the life of God, for us to live out of the very image of God, is to be persons who indwell others. But what is important, following this Christological form of indwelling, is for persons to indwell others in a way that avoids confusing our person for another. To indwell another is not to lose ourself in sharing in the life of another. Rather, the divine nature of Christ indwells completely the human nature, but does so without confusion, without mixing one into the other. The two natures indwell but are differentiated.  
And this is the heart of persons in relationship. This is the essence of love: to indwell the other, to share deeply in their life, but to do so without confusion, without losing your person in enmeshment, without so identifying that there is no differentiation. It is to indwell the other in and through your person, keeping your person as you share in the personhood of the other. Sharing as indwelling is the heart of God's own incarnational act (p76).
This theological insight is important and powerful, but what practical application does it have in pastoral ministry? Root answers with four points of application:

1. A person indwells through action. We indwell others by acting with and for them. We enter into the place sharing ministry of Jesus through personal acts of love. As Jesus said to his first followers, "just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me" (Mat 25:39-40). We go astray when we view pastoral "ministry as the functions of the pastor, instead of seeing ministry as the personal acts done to encounter persons, to indwell others through action as the way of encountering Jesus" (p78).

2. A person indwells through communication. We are "with" others through communication that reveals our person to the other, and they to us--telling our story and hearing theirs. "In the overlap of our narratives we share in new space; we share each other's place" (p80). Root continues:
Personal discourse of communicated love does the profound mystery of bringing past and future together. We share in each other's life by listening, by telling by laughing, by hearing. Through the act of communication persons indwell other persons... Discourse is so significant to personhood that the biblical text tells us that the person of Jesus Christ is the logos, the Word of God (pp80-81). 
3. A person indwells because a person is spirit. The reason we are able to share in the personhood of another is because God has created us as "embodied spirit"--we are the union of body and spirit. Person-to-person sharing is thus fundamentally spiritual--the encounter of two spirits (p81). As embodied spirits, our bodies and spirits are inseparable--and we should understand and respect that, which means appreciating each other's spiritual nature--never seeking to undermine its inherent freedom and mystery. Root comments:
To consume another (to oppress, abuse, reject, isolate) is to deny that the other is spirit, and to see the other instead as only organic material to be used. We are, to answer Cain's question, our brother's keeper (Gen 4:9). We keep him by remembering that he is our brother, that he is and we are because we are together. I must keep him, care for him, because he is the embodied spirit that gives me my personhood (p84). 
Pastors help people live into this reality, "Not by sending people into themselves, to become self-enclosed addicts of so-called spiritual experiences, but by helping them to participate in each other's life" (p86).

4. A person is indwelled because a person is broken. Given the reality of the fall, we understand that persons, though embodied spirit, are broken. We are spiritual in nature, but our spirituality is infected by sin, and sin is fundamentally relational, "the brokenness of relationship" (p87). But our relational God, rather than casting us aside in our brokenness, enters into it with us. This is powerfully illustrated in the Garden of Eden where God acted to clothe Adam and Eve following their sin. Rather than receiving God's rejection, fallen humanity receives God's place sharing love and grace. Our brokenness engenders God's compassion, not his wrath.

As Root notes, "to be broken is to be in need" (p88), and our triune, place sharing God moves to meet that need--opening his own person to us in our need. By entering into our brokenness by way of his incarnation, the eternal Son of God shares our place--not just for a short time during his earthly sojourn nearly 2,000 years ago, but now and forever through his continuing (and permanent) incarnation, by which he remains God with us, as one of us.

In being with us and for us as the God-man, Jesus meets our greatest need as the broken persons that we are. And his place sharing ministry points us to the true nature of pastoral ministry. That ministry is not our own--it is our sharing in Jesus' ongoing ministry, which is a ministry of indwelling, of intimate presence. That being so, the greatest personal attribute of effective pastors is that of empathy. We'll explore that vital topic next time.

March 31, 2014

The Relational Pastor, part 6

For other posts in this series, click on a number: 123, 4, 5789.

What is a pastor?

The last post in this series, which is examining Andrew Root's book, The Relational Pastorconcluded with this rather provocative quote from Root: "To be a person is to be our relationships" (p67). This trinitarian, incarnational understanding of personhood as "being-in-relation" leads Root to ask and answer an important, related question: What is a pastor?

If we define persons as their individual functions and interests, then a pastor's job is to attend to those functions and interests. But if persons are their relationships, then a pastor's job is relational, not functional. Root comments:
We could try to define a pastor by his or her functions, and it has been en vogue for the last century to do so. The pastor is the one who preaches, gives the sacraments, runs the meeting, visits the sick, provides a vision for the church and so the list continues. But to define the pastor by the functional is to lock him or her into the "priest" [who is] is the projector and distributor of divine things, the true reader of the sacred text. This is a function. 
But isn't a pastor more? Surely, the pastor has to do some priestly things, but the pastor is only a pastor because of a flock of persons to whom he or she is called. A person is a pastor because she or he is called by the Spirit to open her or his own spirit to the spirit of the flock. The pastor does this by preaching the Word of God who encounters our persons, and by being present through the personal act of sharing in the sacraments, prayers and the story of her or his people. What pastors do is pastor, and pastoring is the brave action of leading by opening your person to the person of others so that together we might share in the life of God (pp67-68).
No doubt, some pastors will object to Root's assertion, responding, "But aren't there important functional goals I must strive to achieve. Must we pastors not strive to see people converted and then grow into maturity as disciples of Jesus? Is Root saying that having such outcomes as ministry goals is wrong? No, he is not saying that. What he is saying is that the problem arises...
...when the functional wants [goals] of our job [as pastor] drown out and can't support the reality of the personal (p68).
He then gives this example by way of explanation:
Good mothers or good fathers take on many functions: they work, clean, cook. Every week they have goals of getting things done. But a good mother or father does these busy functions for one purpose, she or he does them to facilitate the creation of an environment that allows mother or father and the rest of the family to encounter each other as persons. The functional goals are finally only for encounter of the personal.
Our busy pastoral schedule and our to-do lists should be similar. We brainstorm goals, not for the goal, not even for the results, but for the space it will open up to allow person-to-person encounter, the ways it will free us to share in each other's lives as participation in God's own life... Pastoral ministry is filled with busy functions, but they are stillborn if they ignore the personal. Like good mothers or fathers, we as pastors have to remember that all our functional doing is for the sake of facilitating encounters of persons in our churches and trusting that the God who becomes person meets us in such ways (pp68-69, emphasis added).
It is in this way that Root speaks of a "relational pastor." He is distinguishing being truly relational from merely using relationships as steps toward some functional goal. By God's design, relationship is the goal. Relationship is the means of sharing in Jesus' own relating with his Father and with humanity.

It is common for readers of Root (and of Bonhoeffer who is the source of much of Root's thinking along these lines), to take issue with Root's objection to the use of relationships as means to influence people toward some particular functional goals, even seemingly good ones such as conversion, church attendance, etc. The objectors might ask Root, "Isn't some influence in our relationships necessary, even desirable?" For example, would we not want to build a relationship with a person in order to influence them toward conversion (the idea of "friendship evangelism")?

Root's response to these objections is to point out that they utilize what he calls "the logic of individualism" (p69), which results in relationships being used as tools to move persons toward the fulfillment of particular functional goals. In that approach, what is important is not the relationship itself but the converting of the person's interests. Root contrasts this individualistic, instrumental approach with Jesus' relational approach:
Jesus calls people to see the kingdom, but what is interesting is that this kingdom does not come through individual conversion to the interests of the kingdom. No, this kingdom is different than an earthly political system or social movement, because it comes solely through the person, it comes by faithfulness of a person. 
Jesus, throughout the Gospels calls people to his own person. I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6); I am the true vine (John 15:1, 5); I am the bread of life (John 6:48); I am the good shepherd (John 10:14); I am the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5); I am the gate (John 10:7). "Come to me" is his continued mantra (Matt 11:28; Luke 18:16). It is through his person that the kingdom comes. We find the kingdom only when we find ourselves sharing  in this life; it is about being in his person (pp69-70).
Jesus' ministry, the ministry we are called to share, is fundamentally relational because it is personal. In order to minister to us, God became a human person, the man Jesus Christ. Salvation is then found in sharing Jesus' person--his love and life.
The cross and resurrection aren't simply functions that give us something to possess (even salvation). The cross and resurrection are the acts of the personal that seek to confront and overcome all that keeps persons from sharing in the life of one another and God. Salvation is finding your person bound to God through the person of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not something that can be possessed, it is a personal reality of sharing fully in the life of God, where sin and death have no say. Sin and death must be overcome so we can find our life bound to God and one another, so that we can be in relationship. 
It is in the gift of sharing in Jesus' own person that we are give[n] our person; it is through sharing in his life that we are given our own. The goal of evangelism [and all other Christian ministry] is not to convince people to take on Christian interests in the world but to help them open their very person to the person of Jesus Christ. But they can only be helped to open their person to Jesus' own person if we too [as pastors] will open our person to them. The gospel lives in the logic of the person; ministry must then too find its lifeblood in the person (pp69-70, emphasis added).

March 24, 2014

The Relational Pastor, part 5

For other posts in this series, click on a number: 123, 4, 6789.

What is a person?

Last time in this series exploring the book The Relational Pastor, we noted Andrew Root's definition of ministry as place sharing. This perspective is framed by a trinitarian, incarnational anthropology that embraces the biblical view of persons as beings-in-relation. From this perspective, personhood is understood to be rooted in and defined by the tri-personal being of God who created humankind in his own relational image. This view contrasts sharply with the predominant Western-modern idea of persons as singular, distinct individuals. Root comments:
There is simply no [human] life in being alone, no such thing as a singular person.... We could even stretch it to say that hyperindividualism, is the very judgment of God.... There is no humanity without relationship... [without] being bound one to another, through indwelling and sharing deeply with one another as bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh (Gen. 2:23). This is why Jewish philosopher Martin Buber states, "In the beginning was the relationship" (pp61-62).
Consider that in our Western culture, people tend to be defined by their interests and the functions that flow from those interests: boss, consumer, professor, voter and so forth.
[These] labels of individualism ...exist because they denote your function toward a goal. Bosses manage, consumers buy, professors teach and voters pick candidates; you are this thing because of the function bound in the goal of meeting or expressing your interest. But the [relational] denotations of "brother," "friend" or "mother" are not constructed to signify a function but a relationship. You are only a brother because there is another who calls you such... (p62). 
This trininitarian-incarnational-relational understanding of the nature of persons has profound implications for ministry. Truly Christian ministry is not about running programs to fulfill the interests of people as individuals, but about facilitating personal relationships with God and with other people. Christian ministry is about sharing in relationship--the very act that reflects our actual, relational being as bearers of the relational image of God. As Root notes, we see this in the ministry of Jesus and in that of his first disciples:
The personal stretches so deep in the discipleship of Jesus Christ that the young church calls one another brothers and sisters, for they are bound to one another through the person of Jesus Christ. And Jesus himself tells his listeners that whoever follows him by doing his command of upholding personhood finds true life by sharing in his person, and this person is his brother, sister and mother (Mark 3:34). It can't be missed; the familial language makes it shockingly clear that the faith of the Nazarene is one of personhood for all (p65).  
Jesus used the relational metaphor of friendship, with the understanding that such deeply personal relationships exist not for themselves, not for some other purpose or goal. The point of a friendship is not some interest, "the point is to be with and for, to share in the life of the other" (p65). In that regard, note that what often is referred to as "friendship evangelism" violates this definition by using friendship for the sake of meeting the interest of conversions. This instrumental approach to relationships tends to ignore personhood, which, according to Root, is a dangerous move:
The love of [a] person has no ends, it only acts so that the beloved can live and love. Friendship evangelism actually loves the idea, the third thing it is trying to get people to know, do or come to. In friendship evangelism I don't really love the person, but the idea of church membership, the idea of converting you. I love not you but the thing I'm using the relationship to get you to do" (p66).
But when we view Christian ministry as sharing in Jesus' own place sharing with another person, our focus will be on the delight of personal encounter--of sharing the life of the other. As Root emphasizes, "We are called into the world to love the world as our Father loves--as persons" (p66).

In John 15:12-15 Jesus called his disciples friends because he was sharing deeply in their lives by opening his life to them in a way that enabled them to share his relationship with the Father. Root comments:
Calling his disciples friends makes it crystal clear that it is personhood that matters to God and rests at the center of Jesus' ministry... Friendship has no goal, no interest outside the friend. I am your friend not to get you to a new interest but to share in your person. 
Jesus is friend, and what do friends do? Friends share in the life of friends--"I no longer live but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20). Friendship can have no goal of influence--it seeks only to share our place, to invite us to share in the life of the other. Jesus calls his disciples friends, telling them that in his Father's house are many rooms and he will go make a place for them (John 14:2), because the point is not getting them to a goal but living with them, embracing their person. They are given a room in a house where God's own person is given to share in as a gift. 
Jesus invites people to come and share in his own person, to find their own personhood in sharing in his life as person. "Come and see," he invites (John 1:39). So we call people (do evangelism) as the invitation to come, see and share in the personhood of God through sharing in the personhood of this community
At its most fundamental, what it means to be, what it means to be the one who encounters God, is to be a person. It is to be given our personhood through the gift of relationship. To be a person is to be our relationships (p67).
This understanding of personhood and the understanding of Christian ministry that flows from it points us to a particular understanding of what it means to be a pastor. We'll look at that next time.