Monday, 12 March 2012

The mistakes of Phillip Jensen

TP: It’s really interesting that your experience was after receiving that training, that theological framework, it actually equipped you to keep growing and changing your mind. The perception might be that you go to somewhere like Moore College and you learn a body of knowledge that is fixed forever more. But in fact what you learn is a framework and a set of tools to keep learning and growing.

PJ: Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s the exact reverse of expectation. My youth fellowship group took me through Louis Berkoff’s Systematic Theology. And so I went to Moore College thinking I knew it all. But instead they dismantled much of what I’d learned—especially the sense that here’s the question, here’s the Bible verse, here’s the answer. They said, “Well, what does this proof text verse say in its context, and what does the book say?” And it just didn’t actually prove the point that Louis said it proved. What Moore College did was radicalize my mind to think biblically and creatively, rather than giving me all the answers so I didn’t have to think any more. I had that before I went to College. College freed me from it.

TP: As you left College, and went out to apply your newfound understanding in ministry, you found yourself dealing with people, because ministry is people. Thinking back on your relationships with people and on the pastoral issues you’ve dealt with, what mistakes stick out in your mind? Things you wished you’d done differently, things you’ve learnt from?

PJ: Well, people are an inexact science! You can wish that every relationship is going to work perfectly—but they don’t and they’re never going to. And so there are certain people that I’ve hurt and people who have hurt me. And they would wish, hopefully, that they hadn’t hurt me, and I certainly wish that I hadn’t hurt them! And so there are just mistakes that we all make in relationships.
But in general, with people, I think I was too naïve and trusting of people, especially early in my ministry. I took people too much as I found them.

I didn’t really believe enough in the doctrine of sin. And so I took people on face value, which in one sense you have to if you’re going to trust people, and if you’re going to have a relationship with people. But over the years you learn that the enthusiast, especially the newcomer enthusiast, is often the shallow soil that will burn out very quickly when the opposition comes. And you need to be wary. Read more

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