Postmodernity, Spirituality, and the Spirit

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Christian Fellowship is highly reflective of McCall’s personal call to mission. He observes:
We have a few who are ‘along for the ride,’ those folks who are more interested in a narrower definition of what it means to be ‘church’ than that exercised by us, but generally they don’t ride for very long. The pressure from other members to be involved in some ministry is too great and they either participate, or they leave to find another church that’s a better fit. Outside of these, I would say that almost everyone in the church is directly, hands-on involved in some ministry practice outside of the church, or else financially supports such ministries as the need arises.
McCall is set to retire – which is one reason he was enthusiastic about involving Christian Fellowship in the study. “I want whomever the new pastor is to have as good a picture as such a survey will give,” he said, adding that under new leadership the church would undoubtedly want to develop plans for the future and the survey would be a useful tool for the church and its leadership. “A church needs to understand itself – where it is, what it’s doing,” he said, “before it can understand how to get where what it wants, or needs, to be.”
As the “Pastoral Epistle” reproduced below indicates, Christian Fellowship Baptist Church is a church that was founded on holistic principles. Pastor McCall’s vision of the church was that of an organization that addressed the community and individual needs of the congregation by creating a deep sense of family and impressing on that family the importance of mutual responsibility for the spiritual and human welfare of its members. Believing that a church must have an inner strength based on these principals before it can take on issues in the secular community, McCall adds that the key to ministry in the secular community is that it is properly balanced by the congregation’s ministry to itself. He further asserts that individual acts of ministry tend, in the long haul and unless reinvigorated in some way, to lead to “burnout.” Responding to the suggestion that in the individual act of ministry to others, one ministers to one’s self and is therefore restored, McCall uses a dietary analogy; he points out that a diet of one food, while it may sustain an individual for a while, is inherently defective in that it does not supply all the necessary vitamins and minerals for long term health. So, while an individual or group may feel even a deep sense of spiritual completeness or fulfillment through acts of ministry, it is still important to be ministered to – through, for example, participation in worship and the sacraments, prayer support groups, and recreational activities within the congregational community.
According to many members interviewed, McCall lives his vision: “The pastor is not just visionary and well educated. He . . . reaches out and brings back to us at the church opportunities to grow. He leads by example;” “I have no expectations of rewards (for doing ministry). I think that part of that at least comes from the example our pastor has modeled.” “He is a very humble man; he picks up trash around the church, drives a cheap car. We don’t do like some other churches and have ‘pastor appreciation’ days, [and] buy him a new car or whatever. He won’t hear of it;” “We kind of need to force him to let us honor him.”
McCall, for his part, believes the church honors him through its faithfulness to Matt 25:35-40 and 28:19, 20. “That is what a church is,” he emphasizes, “it’s the message of the Gospel lived out in the wider community.” Pastor McCall’s leadership style is strongly credited for the church’s successful ministry. “The congregation looks to its pastor to be the spiritual leader and also, in some ways, the CEO;” “He knows how to surround himself with good people who are able to take care of the various responsibilities in the church. I think the pastor models integrity.
He is what he says he is. He does what he says he will do;” “He’s not the kind of person to tell you ‘go do this.’ Instead, you go do things because you know that’s what he wants you to do. There is something about him that just makes you want to do right. And, he doesn’t want to be singled out for recognition for doing stuff.” Interviewees agreed that Pastor McCall led by encouraging people to share in the leadership of the church. Rather than finding leaders, he gives leaders room to find themselves. Though he has established the direction of the church and holds the church fast to its course, he lets others manage the journey.

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That the success of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church at engaging its community is due, first, to the vision and passion of its pastor seems self evident, at least as represented by the various groups interviewed. It has been the capacity of the pastor both to attract congregants similarly inclined and for both pastor and congregants to imprint this passion first on early members of the church and then on other folk who have swelled the congregation over the years that has created the sensitivity to mission that the church demonstrates. Second, the ability of the church to engage its community flows in no small part from the ability of the pastor to not merely encourage but to nurture ministry leadership and individual self-motivation. Although one interviewee described the role of pastor as CEO, individuals in the church feel liberated, rather than constrained, by the necessary organizational and administrative structures that accrue to large organizations, viewing such structures as designed to facilitate, rather than obstruct, ministry. Third, that the church is actively engaged in community ministry is an attraction to many Christians because it gives a structured and useful response to a drive (thought to emanate from the Holy Spirit) to engage humanity in scriptural terms (e.g. Matt 25:35-40 and 28:19, 20). The ethnicity of the congregation and the church’s physical location cannot be overlooked. Although the church has striven over the years to be inclusive it remains a largely African American congregation in a largely African American community. This shared identity, coupled with a shared history of the old (and not so old) challenges of repression and disenfranchisement, has led in some ways to a feeling that African American society must ‘pull itself up by its own boot straps,’ and while not eschewing assistance from outside is itself mainly responsible for addressing the multiple contemporary challenges that face it. Thus, lack of education, poverty, drug addiction, crime, teen pregnancy and a pervading sense of hopelessness are all seen as challenges to the Church, and Christian Fellowship rises to the challenge. To do so often requires sacrificial giving of both time and money, but the ordinary people of the church seem to take pride in their ability to stand the test; they share in many ways a sense of engaging in community ministry precisely because it is a hard thing to do.

Chapter One
1.1 Principles, Strategy & Engagement
1.2 Problem Statement
1.3 The Research Hypothesis
1.4 Methodology
1.5 Limitations
1.6 Structure of the Thesis
1.7 Terminology
Chapter Two
2.1 The Postmodern Community
2.2 Postmodernity, Spirituality, and the Spirit
2.3 Congregation as Hermeneutic
Chapter Three
3.1 Location of the Study
3.2 Applying the Research
Chapter Four
4.1 Church Backgrounds and Interviews
Chapter Five
5.1 Preliminary Survey Results
5.2 Primary Survey Results
5.3 Subjective Results
5.4 Conclusions


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