As part of the ordination process with the Church of the Nazarene, I wrote a Philosophy of Ministry that articulates my views on theology and leadership within the church. This is a “living document” which can change over time as my emphases and experiences shape my outlook on church leadership.
My Central Mission Statement:
I am called to share the good news with the lost; to love God with everything I am; to reflect the love of God in my relationship with Him, with other people, and with all creation; and to lead others to do the same.
The Good News:
Humanity was created both individually and communally by God in God’s image,(1) to freely and fully enjoy worshipful communion with Him, with each other, and with all creation.(2) By virtue of our being God’s image, we were created with the ability to freely choose between life and death, right and wrong, creation and destruction;(3) as genuine relationship can only happen in the context of freedom.
In freedom, the first humans were seduced with the promise of power which the Tree of Knowledge embodies.(4) In doing so, they willfully followed their own selfish desires without regard to the natural consequences of broken communion which followed. This willful pursuit of selfish desire at the expense of our communion with God is what we call “sin”. Their communion with God was severed as their nakedness was revealed;(5) their communion with each other was severed as one human was cursed to dominate another and their children would be hounded by sin and death; and their communion with creation was severed with their removal from paradise and exemplified in their struggle to survive.(6)
But even though we have all been separated from God and each other by the selfish and rebellious choices of every human being from the first up to today; God did not abandon us. He chose the people Israel to be the avenue through which He would bring Salvation to all who would accept it.(7) He also sent the prophets to proclaim His law, the nature of His desire, and the reality of our sin.(8)And He loved us so much that Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully human, took on flesh and was born to a virgin, died on the cross, and was bodily raised from the dead; so that we likewise may not die in our twisted state of separation and sin, but rather also be bodily raised to new life in perfect communion with God and each other in the new, restored, and redeemed creation.(9) In doing so, Christ is the new Adam, and frees us from the curse of the old.(10) This also means our ability to repent and accept the free gift of salvation is restored through the prevenient grace provided in Christ’s sacrifice and communicated through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Christ had the authority and ability to do this because he is fully God and fully man. He was not tainted with the communal state of sin into which all humanity is born. He lived a perfect life free from sin, though he was tempted. He conquered sin and death forever in his self-sacrificial death on the cross and bodily resurrection; thus establishing the promise of bodily resurrection for all who believe in him.(11) During his life, he worked miracles and taught his disciples a new way of life, meant to provide a foretaste of his victorious kingdom and the above-mentioned new creation.
And once he was assumed into Heaven to prepare for the fulfillment of of his promise; he sent the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, to call all humanity to Himself and to guide, comfort, and admonish the Church. The Holy Spirit is fully and equally God, as are the Son, and the Father. They are eternally and mystically One substance, yet three Persons. It is through the Holy Spirit that we come to know and experience God.(12)
The Church in turn is the community of disciples called to embody the foretaste of the new creation, the kingdom of heaven, which stands in stark contrast to the kingdoms of the world. We live by Christ’s teachings and self-sacrificial example. And our greatest testimony to our faith in a broken, hurting and often bitter world, is our love for one another which extends even to our enemies.(13) Our love not only reflects the promise of the new creation, it reflects the love Christ has for the world, and the love expressed in the perfect unity of the Trinity. The more fully this love is expressed in the Church, the more fully we realize the purpose for which we were first created, which is to be God’s image in the world.
Our sacraments were instituted by Christ himself for the benefit of the Church, and include Baptism and Communion. I believe Communion communicates the real presence of Christ to the participant and connects them in worship and proclamation to the whole Body of Christ, in all times and places.(14) And I believe water Baptism using the Trinitarian formula, whether by sprinkling or immersion and whether to infants or adults, is a necessary sign of obedience and public proclamation to the world of both the Christian’s inclusion in the community and their trust in Christ’s promise of the resurrection.(15) This does not mean it is necessary for Salvation, as Salvation comes through faith in the free gift of grace alone.(16)
In all this, I affirm the inspired reliability and sufficiency of Scripture to communicate what is necessary for Salvation;(17) I affirm the tradition of the Church Fathers and Mothers who have shaped its interpretation from the days of the Apostles to today; and I affirm the ancient ecumenical creeds which formulate orthodox belief.(18)
Role of the Pastor
While all Christians are called to utilize their God-given gifts for ministry, the Holy Spirit calls certain ministers, who are referred to in scripture as Elders or Overseers, to special roles in leadership, preaching, discipleship, and administering the sacraments.
As leaders we are called to discern and execute the vision which God has for our particular area of ministry, while being good stewards of the resources placed under our responsibility. As preachers, we are called to bear witness to and proclaim the transforming grace of Jesus Christ in the gospel message. As disciplers, we are called to grow, challenge, counsel, encourage, and equip those believers entrusted in our care as the Holy Spirit leads them to greater maturity, sanctifies them, and in turn calls them to ministry.(19) When administering the sacraments, we take the concrete elements and actions taught to us by Christ, and through the Holy Spirit, communicate the immeasurable grace of Christ freely given to all who are in communion with Him.
As an Elder, I plan to fulfill all these roles; though the emphasis on particular roles may take precedence over others as need requires. For example, as a hospice Chaplain I may preach monthly, usually in the context of funerals and memorials where many of those gathered may not be believers, and who may only hear sermons when they attend weddings or funerals; rather than weekly to a congregation that may have a greater proportion of believers, who may be used to sermon series and themes carried over multiple Sundays. At the same time, I may spend a greater amount of my time and energy on the tasks associated with discipleship, especially counseling and encouragement. Additionally, rather than having set, pre-planned times for the administration of sacraments, they may need to be provided on an emergency basis for individuals who wish to partake in these particular expressions of faith.
Philosophy of Leadership
As a leader in the Church, I am called to both reflect the leadership of Christ to the people, and lead the people to worshipful communion in Christ. As stated above, the type of kingdom which Christ leads stands in stark contrast to the kingdoms of the world. Likewise, the type of leadership which Christ exemplifies stands in stark contrast to the leaders of the world. Where the world rewards leaders who ruthlessly pursue their desires and consolidate power over people under themselves; Christlike leaders are called to selflessly set our desires aside and bring people to true freedom in Christ.(20) Where worldly leaders and the kingdoms they lead seek to protect their group by demonizing outsiders; Christlike leaders welcome the outsiders into our churches, our homes, and our lives.(21) Where worldly leaders and the kingdoms they lead believe power should rest with the powerful and ally themselves to it; Christlike leaders protect the marginalized and defend the cause of the orphan, the widow, and the refugee.(22)
Additionally, the New Testament puts forward very clear standards for leaders in the church. An Elder must be disciplined, faithful, honest, and gracious in all his or her areas of life, starting with the home.(23) After all, our first mission field is our own families, and they often see our true nature.
I think all leaders in the church, whether clergy or lay, are called to this type of Christlike leadership. I also think that, as we are one community, we are all accountable to each other and to the Holy Spirit for our thoughts and actions. Still, as one of the fundamental roles of a pastor discussed above is discipleship and mentorship for those called to ministry, we must be especially watchful of our conduct; as it has the potential to shape (or harm) the faith of future generations of leaders.
Philosophy of Evangelism and Discipleship
There are a number of challenges which American churches are facing in the 21st century, and one of the biggest is how to draw in and communicate the gospel to generations of Americans who are increasingly not only un-churched, but even anti-church. It isn’t simply a matter of updating the music every couple of decades. Many of those who have walked away from (or never entered) a church have deep wounds from those around them which they perceived as religious. Many have walked into a congregation two or three weeks in a row without being noticed. And there have been some who were absent for weeks to care for a family member or because of illness, but no one called, came to visit, or prepared a meal.
If we are to attract, convert, and disciple an increasingly un-churched culture; we need to push past the political, generational, socio-economic, and ethnic divisions in our country and discern what the Holy Spirit is already doing. It’s easy to become discouraged sometimes, but God is doing some amazing things in our culture. For instance, there is a deep desire among younger generations to see ethnic divisions crumble and to be a part of diverse groups. They are passionate about caring and advocating for the poor and marginalized. And they care about the planet and the ramifications of pollution, deforestation, and climate change. Though they are increasingly shaped by sources of information which only serve to confirm previous biases, they have a deep desire for truth that addresses the hard questions encountered in life.
To me, these concerns represent the work of the Holy Spirit in the world, drawing all people to Himself. We just need to be aware of what God is already doing, and develop our ministries to reflect and participate in that work. That may mean starting a community garden, or organizing a highway cleanup, or designating lay volunteers to greet new visitors and call those who we haven’t seen in a while, just to let them know we care for them and are here for them. It could also mean conducting small group bible studies in more comfortable and personal settings, like in homes, or coffee-shops, or other so called “third spaces” where people can relax and grow as a community. Finally, our leaders need to trust God by being vulnerable with each other. By taking risks and letting our congregations know we also sometimes struggle with tough questions, with loneliness, and with emotional wounds; we can build a more trusting and truly united community within the Body of Christ.
Role of the Laity
Our church affirms the calling placed on the life of every believer to be ministers and witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ.(24) This means that, according to the gifts they’ve been given and which the Church is called to cultivate, they can and should be involved in almost every area of ministry. While an Elder is called to discern and communicate God’s vision for the community, lay members are equipped by the Holy Spirit to participate in and execute that vision. Though an Elder is called to preach to the congregation, lay members may pray or give testimony to what God is doing in their lives in the congregational setting. And though an ordained Elder is responsible for the maturity and discipleship of the body of believers, as well as the cultivation of prospective ordination candidates; more mature lay members may still lead bible studies, book clubs, and group discussions, teach Sunday School, and even mentor less mature individuals, all under the supervision of the ordained members of the congregation.
Philosophy of Stewardship
First, I believe the church should be utterly transparent in how it allocates funds. In line with the above discussion on evangelism, many have grown mistrustful of institutions in general and churches in particular. Popular criticism of lavish church facilities and pastors who travel in their own private jets and live in mansions abound; even if this criticism does not reflect the reality of most churches and pastors.(25) A church which makes its financial information readily available goes a long way toward earning people’s trust.
I also think that if an Elder or leader in the Church is going to hold the community to a standard of investment in the church and personal accountability; then the self-same leader should exemplify that standard.(26) That means I should not only tithe as a regular act of trust, discipline, and worship;(27) I should use all my household resources in a responsible manner. This may mean going above and beyond the tithe to support Nazarene Compassionate Ministries or other worthy causes, as I am able. It also means responsibly using my time and energy in ways that edify the community, grow our bonds of love, and that exemplify the loving character of Christ to all those I interact with. And it means finding new ways to eliminate waste (including food, water, electricity, fuel, etc. as well as money).
Additionally, just as the church’s leadership are called to discern and build strategies for responding to God’s vision for the congregation; they are also called to find creative ways to efficiently allocate resources in a sustainable way, while seeing to the needs of those entrusted to the care of the Church.(28) This means having Standard Operating Procedures and detailed recordkeeping in place on the congregational and program level for the allocation and use of funds; as well as detailed financial plans in place when a new ministry or project is started and at regular intervals as it continues.
Finally, stewardship also extends to our care of the planet and the “community capital”(29) which surrounds our churches. This may mean embracing green initiatives when remodeling or expanding our facilities, or instituting a recycling or scrap collection program (which could also bring in revenue). It could also mean having a prayer garden and which incorporates the natural beauty of the surrounding environs, while also utilizing plants adapted to the climate to cut down on chemical pest control measures and watering requirements (which also saves money in the process). On the “community capital” side, the local church could partner with other like-minded area churches, businesses, non-profits, and individuals in ministering to the poor, or by working together on ministry projects, thereby fostering greater cooperation with the greater Body of Christ and negating another popular criticism of the Church as being fractured and divisive.(30)
The Role of the Family
The family is a microcosm of the Church,(31) and the relationships within the family should strive to reflect the perfect love, joy and communion expressed in the Trinity. My wife and I try to make all our family decisions in unity, submitting ourselves to each other, and being examples of Christ-like love to each other and our children.(32) When it comes to ministering in the Church, I recognize that my wife has been given unique gifts and her own will to follow Christ. This means that while she is very supportive of my ministry, her role within the church should be decided based on her own gifts and the leading of the Holy Spirit, and not by her relationship to me as a pastor’s wife.
I also recognize that, while I am committed to raising my children in the knowledge of Christ, their decision whether or not to follow Christ or participate in ministry is ultimately a decision made between them and God. So, while I encourage my family to participate fully in the life and ministry of the Church, I will not force them. Likewise, when it comes to positions of ministerial authority within the Church, they will need to show the same maturity and calling that would be expected of any other believer who desired such a position, and should not be deferentially placed simply because I am the pastor.
Why a Nazarene Minister
I love the Nazarene Church and the work of God expressed in both its history and distinctive doctrines. These include denominational roots in urban homeless ministries in Los Angeles, and an emphasis on supporting Nazarene educational institutions. They also include our teachings on Christian perfection, free will, and divine healing. Additionally, I support our affirmation of both infant and believer’s baptism. And I rejoice in the call God has placed in the lives of women as well as men to become ordained Elders and Deacons. All of these were factors in my decision to serve with and support the Nazarene Church.
Still, I also believe that God is doing great things in other orthodox denominations(33) and I believe it is God’s desire that we overcome our denominational differences and learn to love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We may not agree on everything and should still stay true to our convictions and doctrinal distinctions; but we can also recognize the legitimacy of each other’s ministries, ordinations, and sacraments. In the meantime, I think it is essential to the ministry of the Church that we begin to work with other denominations in our communities to reach out to the lost, help the poor, and even worship with each other as the opportunity arises.
Rev. Ian Hyde
- Gen. 1:26-27.
- cf. Psa. 8:1-9, 19:1-6 and 139:13-18.
- Deu. 30:19.
- Gen. 3:3-6.
- Gen. 3:7.
- Gen. 3:13-19, 23.
- John 4:22; cf. Rom. 10-11.
- 2 Chr. 24:19.
- 1 Cor. 15:12-58; Rev. 21:1-27.
- 1 Cor. 15:45.
- 1 Cor. 15:12-58; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:31:2.
- John 14:15-17.
- John 13:35; Mat. 5:44-45.
- Eph. 4:11-13.
- John 6:32-58; 1 Cor. 10:16-17, 11:23-29.
- Mat. 28:19-20; Acts. 16:31, 33; 1 Cor. 12:13.
- 28th General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene, Manual: 2013-2017, 29.
- cf. Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381; Chalcedonian Creed of 451; Apostles’ Creed; and the Athanasian Creed.
- Eph. 2:8-9.
- 1 Pet. 5:2-3; Mat. 20:25-28.
- Heb. 13:2.
- Exo. 23:9; Jer. 7:6; James 1:27.
- Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3:1-7.
- Church of the Nazarene, Manual: 2013-2017, 186.
- According to Pastor Salaries, Average Salary & Jobs Pay, http://www.salarylist.com/jobs/Pastor-Salary.htm, retrieved Feb. 27, 2017; the average annual pay for a pastor is $35,360. In fact, a growing number of pastors must work two or more jobs to provide for their families.
- 1 Cor. 4:1-2.
- Deu. 14:28-29; Prov. 3:9-10.
- Luk. 12:42-46.
- These are the unique cultural resources which abound in any community, and which both connect it to and differentiate it from other communities.
- John 17:20-21.
- John Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians, 6.
- Eph. 5:21-33.
- Defined as those who exhibit apostolic authority and adhere to the ancient creeds listed above.
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