Friday, October 31, 2008

Questions for an Interview with three Pastors

I am interviewing the pastors of my church Tuesday afternoon. Here are some of the possible questions I'll be asking them:

What do you think the Church's response should be to environmental problems?

Is overconsumption a "real" problem in the spiritual life of a Christian? If so, how can we deal with it in the Church?

Why do some Christians not use their gifts to serve inside or outside the Church?

How do we set Christians free in the church and the world to do what God has called them to do? Or how do we help them understand that they are set free to minister in the world?

What does it mean to keep the Sabbath? (in other words, what can we do and what should we avoid? Does keeping the Sabbath mean that we spend all day either in church/worship, or can we do anything that help us relax and rest?)

What happens during a spiritually fallow time (vs. a spiritually productive time)? Would this fallow time be comparable to a Sabbath, or is it something different?

How do we maintain a balance between giving and accumulating (things/money)? What level of giving or sacrifice is a burden to people?

Do you think we must live in affluence to evangelize the wealthy?

Is it necessary to spend millions of dollars on church buildings when there are so many people in the world who have virtually nothing? Instead of building buildings, could the church use tithes and gifts to take care of more poor people, much like the ancient Israelites and the first Christians did?

Sometime next week, I'll probably post their responses. It should be interesting - I've known two of these pastors since I was seventeen, and one of those two I met at summer camp. So I'm pretty excited to talk to them.


Eric Hadley-Ives said...

I'll pretend I'm a pastor and give some answers:

Question: What do you think the Church's response should be to environmental problems?

Answer: The church has a primary mission to help people find their way to Jesus and God, and once people have found the Good News that Jesus brought, the Church provides them a way to put their faith into action and find support for their faith and their life in the church community.
Therefore, the environmental problems should be considered:
1) as a way to turn people's attention to God and Jesus. For example, people who care about the environment have some good empathy and altruistic feelings, so those feelings might make them more open to God and Jesus, and environmental actions might be a stage for mission and teaching work).
2) as a way for people in the congregation to put their faith into action. Many of the ways we can deal with environmental problems involve our doing good works for God's creation or service work to other people. Environmental action or teachings can be combined with lessons about respect and worship of God the Creator. The need to serve others in need and take care of the poor (messages from the Bible) can be demonstrated to have an influence on environmental concerns (when the Church supports education and health care in poor nations we are helping to slow population growth in those countries, and this reduction in population growth will help preserve the environment).
3) As a way for people to find a home in the church and social support. Many people want to feel good about their families and their church community, and as we do things in our church and congregation to address environmental problems, members of our congregation will feel good about the church and good about what they are doing for the environment, and these good feelings will help them feel at home in the church.

You ask: Is overconsumption a real problem?
Answer: Yes, when overconsumption becomes a sort of false god, or distracts people from their spiritual duties, it becomes a problem, and yes, I think this is happening. There may also be a moral problem if people's consumption is depriving others of consumption. For example, is our use of energy or food making food or energy less available to other people who have just as much a claim on food and energy as we have? The main way to address these problems is through sermons and study classes. If people are aware of these issues and understand them, they may make changes in their lives.

Eric Hadley-Ives said...

You ask, "Why do some Christians not use their gifts to serve inside or outside the Church?"

They may use their gifts in their families, or in their workplaces, and they may do this instead of using their gifts for the church. Sometimes God's will is served in these other arenas of life. Some Christians don't use their gifts because they don't know what their gifts are, or they are using all their time doing things that are not about their gifts. For example, they may spend much of their time doing household chores and parenting, or consuming recreation and entertainment, and so they have no time left over in which to find or use their gifts.

You ask, "how do we set Christians free to do what God has called them to do?"
It seems to me that we help the congregation to find this freedom and this call to minister to the world through our sermons and study classes. If we emphasize this message in our church, then the members of the congregation will hear it and apply it in their lives.