(2005) by Stephen Seamands



larry crab: ‘seamands’s treatment of trinitarian theology did so much more than inform and challenge me. it did both, but it also reached my soul where the passion to enjoy their community and reveal their character burns like a hot fire’

1 – trinitarian ministry – why it matters


the trinity is a solution that makes so many perplexing issues intelligible..

the doctrine of the trinity has been described as the grammar of the christian faith.. a grammar is a set of rules governing a particular language.. it tells us how to speak the language correctly and to properly convey our meaning..

literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism.. we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things

of course, one may understand and speak a language w/o knowing its grammar.. grammar itself doesn’t convey meaning and content, except about the language itself.. often committed christians can’t articulate an understanding of the trinity, yet they grasp it intuitively..  crucial for christian leaders to know rules of trinitarian grammar


however, the primary purpose of the trinitarian grammar is not comprehension or communication, but communion w god


no one is speaking, but an intimate conversation ids going on.. (icon of the holy trinity by andrei rublev, 1425)

rublev has a deeper purpose for his icon than teaching doctrine. he wants it to effect communion w god, not merely communication of truth..


the ultimate purpose of the doctrine of the trinity. it tells us not only about the nature of god but, as catherine mowry lacugna says, about ‘god’s life w us and our life w each other’.. the one in who m we live and move and have our being.. acts 17:28 lives and moves and has his being as father, son and hs.

the same holds true for focus of this book, the vocation of ministry. it too will reflect the trinitarian pattern .. w/o it, christian ministry becomes another helping profession and christian service is a generic form of caregiving..

helping ness


‘the needs of the world are recognized and brought into this ministry but do not set the agenda’ – anderson

oswald chambers: ‘we slander god by our very eagerness to work for him w/o knowing him’..  always wanting to do things for god w/o cultivating our relationship w god..


the enormous needs of the church and the world cry out for our attention.. yet involvement in these good things can keep us from the best..  sometimes we can miss god’s work by our very desire to do god’s will

confronted by a sea of human need and the insatiable demands of people, those in ministry can become, in stanley hauerwas’s phrase, ‘a quivering mass of availability’..

in earnestly seeking to do god’s will, we can be tempted to do too much of it.

diff between doing things for god and doing what god tells us to do

of course we must not overspiritualize or mystify the process of discerning what the father is doing..


only thru the hs can we discover what the father is doing

jesus was radically dependent on the hs.. the relationship that defined his id and mission


on hs – not a filling up a cup with water.. misled if we think that way..  rather.. surrender and abandonment to the hs..

though hs is present in *all believers.. in some he is not preeminent..

all people.. no?

radically dependent and available


most of us.. depend nominally on the spirit but primarily on ourselves – our training, skills, personality, pasts experiences, knowledge, our sincere efforts.. as a result, what we accomplish is limited ..

wesley duewel: ‘if you rely on training , you accomplish what training can do. if you rely on skills and hard work, you obtain the results that skills and hard, faithful works can do. when you rely on committees, you get what committees can do. but when you rely on god, you get what god can do’

huge .. esp of late convos w eaf

no train.. rather.. listen deeper to what’s already in each one of us (this is why i believe p 28 has to be all of us.. otherwise start thinking you need to train people)

2 – relational personhood – the nature of trinitarian ministry


larry crabb (on what others told him was committing professional suicide): intro to his book (1997) connecting: crabb boldly offered his prescription for healing soul wounds: ‘we must do something other than train professional experts to fix damaged psyches.. *damaged psyches aren’t the problem. the problem beneath our struggles is a disconnected soul.. and we must do something more than exhort people to do what’ right and then old them accountable.. groups tend to emphasize accountability when they don’t know how to relate.. *better behavior thru exhortation isn’t the solution, though is sometimes is part of it.. rather than fixing psyches or scolding sinners, we must provide nourishment for the disconnected soul that only a community of connected people can offer’

wow.. some of this is so *good..  and some *unsettling

let’s focus on whole people.. ie: maté basic needs


our greatest need, he argued, is not for more christian therapists and moralists but for authentic christian communities..

2 convers as infra


(on why the change in crabb’s perception of healing) – he had been brought to a profound awareness that human beings, created in the image of the triune god, are constituted for relationship..

maté basic needs – if in his image.. already in (or missing) each one of us.. each all of us

ever since augustines’ confessions w its introspective approach of searching for god w/in the human soul

yeah.. let’s do that.. let’s trust that

(ever since that).. we in the west have generally conceived of persons as separate selves w individual centers of consciousness.. apart from relationships

that wouldn’t be in image of god.. we got that part wrong.. but not that god is already in each soul.. so ie: no train needed if not already oppressed et al (and then it would be detox.. not training)


there is no being of god other than this dynamic of persons in relation


you are only truly you in relationship to others..

and only truly in relationship when truly you ie: brown belonging lawthe opposite of belonging.. is fitting in.. true belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are.. it requires you to be who you are.. and that’s vulnerable.. –Brené Brown


like the persons of the trinity, human selves in proper relationships, rooted in love and characterized by dynamic interdependence, are never separate from one another nor subsumed by one another

3 – joyful intimacy – the foundation of trinitarian ministry


the spirit is in the love they (father and son) share and can even be thought of as the channel of their loving..  it is the hs who both communicates god’s love to us and enfolds us in tits dynamic movement..

clark pinnock: ‘spirit is content to be thought of as the medium and fellowship of love. he delights in the loving relationships of the divine dance and exults in the self emptying love that binds father and son.. he delights to intro creatures to union w god, the dance of the trinity and the sabbath play of new creation


thru his ministry he never sought to establish his worth. it was rooted in this confidence in his belovedness.. doing was the result of being (in a relationship w the father) not thE other way around..

dynamic cycle of being by frank lake: 1\ acceptance (being son never in question) 2\ sustenance (plentitude of love)  3\ status  4\ achievement

last 2?


his mighty works and laying his life down are not motivated by a need to earn acceptance or status from his father or to fill up anything lacking in his sense of being.. instead they flow out of his fullness of being, rooted and sustained by his joyful, intimate love relationship w his father


too often people.. enter ministry w/o this foundation (cycle of being p 63).. they make achievement.. wanting to do something in order to e someone..  in mike bickle’s words as ‘loving workers’ instead of as god intends , as ‘working lovers’.. ‘god wants us to be lovers so that we do work.. wants us to be something before wants us to do something’.. do you love me.. before .. feed my sheep

all the human love and compassion she could muster would soon be depleted in india.. if god wanted her to server there, she would need his love and compassion to sustain her


how can i give you my heart for india when you don’t even know my heart for you


w/o regular experiences of the father’s embrace, we forget whose we are and our focus shifts from relationship to work.. working for god becomes more important than loving god.. what we do for god becomes more important than who we are as his beloved sons/daughters..


i’ve learned that if i fail to regularly spend time alone w god, soon i am hearing other voices.. those of the world system around me and my own dysfunctional self talk..

2 convers as infra


love – so amazing so divine

4 – glad surrender – the heart of trinitarian ministry

ministry in greek – to serve

free\dom ness

5 – complex simplicity – the mystery of trinitarian ministry


the only simplicity to be trusted is the simplicity to be found on the far side of complexity – alfred north whitehead

complexity and simple enough ness


cs lewis in mere christianity draws on story of  the ‘flatlander’ who live in a 2d world, to illustrate our predicament w regard to trinity.. the flatlanders can conceive of lines and fields but not depths and cubes.. likewise.. we can’t conceive how god can be perfectly one yet 3 distinct persons.. we simply don’t have access to all the dimensions god inhabits


paul: ‘the depth of riches and wisdom.. how unsearchable are h is judgments and ow inscrutable his ways..

gerhard tersteegen 18th cent: ‘a god understood, a god comprehended, is no god’


the divine simplicity is not simplistic but a complex simplicity..

the trinity reminds us that our highest reasoning powers and most profound logical categories will never penetrate or fully comprehend, explain or contain, resolve or remove the mystery of god..  our finest words about god are but feeble, faltering attempts to express what can never fully or adequately be conveyed in any human language

language as control/enclosure et al


when we forget this we are apt to become smug and self satisfied, narrow minded and intolerant, as if somehow we have a corner on the truth, a knowledge of god superior to all others..

god can’t be contained and imprisoned in any of our categories/boxes

our modern scientific mindset has little time or patience w mystery.. we pride ourselves in being able to penetrate the unknown and offer solutions to life’s most perplexing problems..

no doubt as a result f modern science we have taken giant strides forward in uncovering knowledge about our world.. and overcoming superstition

rather.. knowledge about whales in sea world.. a most dangerous superstition.. let go


but science has also fostered the false assumption that given enough study/research, we can figure anything out

and too.. false assumption that the data we keep researching is legit in the first place

tozier: ‘to admit there is one who lies beyond us, outside all our categories, who will not be dismissed w a name, .. not submit to our curious inquiries.. this requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess, so we save face by thinking god down to our level, o rat least down to where we can manage him


in the presence of his mystery, we are no longer in a position of control where we can manage or master the subject.. worship is more appropriate than problem solving.. awe is preferable to answers..  so the mystery of the trinity ought to evoke tin us humility and worship – the very attitudes necessary for entering the circle of triune fellowship..

greek word mysterion used by nt writers significantly different than popular meaning today.. instead of an impenetrable unlocked secret, it points to an open secret.. on that has been revealed..  beyond human discovery.. we know only because go d has revealed.. grateful that god has reveled himself to us, but we also recognize that the greater whole eludes our grasp..  thus god’s self revelation dissolves divine mystery and preserves it at the same time


augustine.. developed a precise and elaborate technical vocab.. in constructing a doctrine of the trinity.. yet he never entertained illusions about his ability to penetrate the mystery of the trinity. as he said, he developed his vocab ‘not that the mystery might be spoken, but that it not be left unspoken..’

eugene peterson: ‘not the mystery of a darkness that must be dispelled but the mystery of a light that may be entered.. it is not something that we don’t know but something that is too much to know’

approaching life/ministry as a mystery to be entered instead of a problem to be solved opens us to hidden meanings, depths that are beyond our categories and calculations..

literacy and numeracy both elements of colonialism.. we need to calculate differently and stop measuring things


even after we have exerted our best efforts and skills, there is alway s more in any situation than we can comprehend

shaw communication law et al

knowing that frees us from having to figure everything out, to have all the answers and to always be in control.. instead of frustrating us, the presence of mystery evokes gratitude, for it si the gateway to humility and wonder

why we haven’t yet gotten back/to equity .. (garden enough ness).. because we can’t seem to let go of it (control)

let go.


wonder/wander/whimsy (trusting/seeing-with your heart) ness and taleb antifragile law; no agenda;..  et al


often it is easier to go to a logical extreme than to live in the tension of biblical paradox

or rather divine/spiritual paradox (seeing biblical ness one logical extreme)


(paul’s) understanding of the hs – is similarly in the radical middle.. future is bother here (already) and not fully here (not yet).. today we have groups that emphasize one or the other.. but miss the radical middle..


christian schwarz: theological blockages.. inability to grasp the bipolar nature of the church as both an organism (the dynamic pole) and an organization ( the static pole)..

many fail to live in the radical middle and operate out of either an ‘institutionalistic’ or a ‘spiritualistic’ paradigm..  in the radical middle.. both sides of the paradox are adequately affirmed.. you’re not schizo.. can be all about relations and all about org structure

ie: 2 convers as infra


most of us are also well acquainted w unities that are not so simple.. ie: there is the unity of  a work of art to the unity of a living creature.. in contrast to math unities, these organic unities as hodgson calls them ‘can only exist at all by virtue of the presence of .. the multiplicity of the varied elements which constitute the work of art or the living creature’.. here.. in contrast to math.. unity doesn’t preclude multiplicity but presumes it (1 is 1 et al).. in fact, the higher the entity, the more complex the unity in multiplicity becomes..

clark pinnock: ‘unity is not a simple idea. unity can admit of great complexity.. trinity is a mystery, but it is not an irrationality. it epitomizes the complexity in unity that we find everywhere in experience..’..


nothing is so simple that it’s not also complex, and nothing is so complex that it’s not also simple..

there has always been a temptation to evade complexity in *ministry by reducing it to formulas, programs, techs, and quick fixes

in *life


the problem w how to books, hansen concluded, was that they reduce ministry to a technology

supposed to’s.. for all of life.. screw us up big time


ts elliot: ‘we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’

6 – gracious self acceptance – the particularity of trinitarian ministry


harold turner: 3 world views – atomic (individual); oceanic (whole); relational (net – closest to triune)

the it is me.. never just me... networked individualism ness


theologians underscore distinctions by suing diff prepositions: from father, thru son, by hs


to be is to be in relationship.. we must also maintain that particularity.. being a person not simply being a part of a greater whole..  to be a person is to be uniquely who we are and distinct from others..  william wordsworth: all persons ‘differ, by mystery not to be explained’

fittingness and brown belonging law et al


god’s esteem for the particularity of human languages ultimately flows out of  his esteem for the otherness and particularity in himself..

idio-jargon ness

leaves 99 sheep to look for one


we find it much easier to extend grace to others that to ourselves..

brennan manning: self hatred is the predominant spiritual problem he has encountered..

henri nouwen: more than popularity, success or pride, ‘self rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘beloved’..

my father, david seamands calls low self esteem ‘satan’s deadliest weapon’ because it paralyzes our potential, destroys our dreams, ruins our relationships and sabotages our service

romano guardini: ‘the act of self acceptance is the root of all things. i must agree to be the person who i am.. the clarity and courageous ness of this acceptance is the foundation of all existence’

fittingness and brown belonging law et al


only as we accept our authentic self are we free to love others.. as payne maintains, ‘if we are busy hating that soul that god loves and is in the process of straightening out, we cannot help others – our minds will be riveted on ourselves – not on christ who is our wholeness’

thus gracious self acceptance, delighting in ourselves because god loves and delights in us, is an essential aspect of spiritual and emotional maturity..

1\ renouncing false self

whales in sea world; wilde not us law; et al


simon tugwell: superficially happy, hide behind pretty faces, come to forget we are hiding.. and think that our assumed pretty face is what we really look like

smile ness.. and mask and measures ness.. et al

god loves us naked, vulnerable, and fragile as we are..  turn away from the false self..

3 major fig leaves: accomplishment, acceptance and acclaim..  what an idol i had made of others’ acceptance/approval.. approvalholic

spaces of permission with nothing to prove.. ness


isn’t my love/approval enough.. do you have to have everyone else’s too?.. in that moment i saw myself as adam in the garden.. eat the fruit.. you have my unconditional blessing and approval.. but my false self countered.. that’s not enough.. i’ve got to have the forbidden fruit.. for everyone else’s approval

garden enough ness


2\ removing seeds of self rejection.. generally planted in our formative childhood years.. result of unconditional love et al

gabor on childhood trauma et al


brennan manning: ‘the imposter w/in whispered.. don’t ever be  yourself because nobody likes you as you are.. invent a new self that everyone will admire and nobody will know’..


our self worth is not based on what we do ow what others think of us.. i realized i was spurning god’s free gift – beloved


3\ receiving acceptance from christ

cs lewis: ‘your real, new self.. will not come as long as you are looking for it.. it will come when you are looking for him’..

4\ embracing our weaknesses


since our false self generally can’t tolerate weakness, this is an important way to renounce it and put it to death.. accept ourselves as he accepts us


intro to john eagan journal: ‘we deem ourselves too inconsiderable to be used .. and thus our false humility shackles an otherwise omnipotent god’


define yourself radically as one beloved of god.. let god’s love for you become most important thing in your life

have you learned to cherish/delight in yourself and all that you are as god cherishes and delights in you? have you celebrated the fact that you have a story/calling unlike those of any other person?.. gracious self acceptance..

grace is everywhere – even grace for ourselves

7 – mutual indwelling – the reciprocity of trinitarian ministry

reciprocity ness – as red flag


hudson taylor and house churches in china

house church ness


because they have a faith that seeks but not a faith that rests.. the joyful confidence of abiding in christ eludes them.. ‘not a striving to have faith.. but a looking off to the faithful one seems all we need; a resting in the loved one entirely, for time and for eternity’ – john macarthy

hudson: ‘i’ve striven in vain to rest in him.. i’ll strive no more.. for has not he promised to abide w me – never to leave me..’  – mission work for 9 yrs till he got this.. he had discovered that restful sense of sufficiency in another.. the exchanged life.. his spiritual secret..


as the doctrine of the trinity developed in the church and theologians searched for language to describe the mutual indwelling an interpenetration of the three persons, they eventually landed on the beautiful greek term perichoresis.. conveys a number o ideas: reciprocity, interchange, giving to and receiving from one another, being drawn to one another and contained in the other, interpenetration one another by drawing life from and pouring life into one another as a fellowship of love

yet while perichoresis involves permeation, there is no blurring of differences or merging w one another.. .. jurgen motlmann: the three ness of the unity w/o reducing the threeness to the unity or dissolving the unity in the threeness’


there are neither leaders nor followers in the divine dance, only an eternal movement of reciprocal giving and receiving, giving again and receiving again..

love the dance analogy.. but i don’t think the reciprocal/giving-receiving ness is healthy/natural/godlike.. i think that brings a measuring/accounting ness into an otherwise unconditional dance

‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows


most of us don’t realize this until we have been involved in ministry for several yrs.. we generally had to come to he end of ourselves and our own self effort in ministry. after we have exhausted ourselves in our sincere attempt to minster for christ, we are finally ready to acknowledge the truth of christ’s words ‘apart form me you can do nothing’..


‘all t his time you’ve been sincerely trying to do for me what i deeply desire to do thru you.. world of diff between being productive and being fruitful.. only when we lay down our exhausting attempts to accomplish ministry in our own strength .. and learn to let it happen by restfully abiding in him..

norton productivity law et al


koinonia – being known by someone.. not a cluster of individual saints but.. a perichoretic fellowship analogous to and participating in the trinity.. where members coinhere, interanimate and our life into one another w/o coalescence or merger..

maté basic needs

4 aspects of ministry where we might experience such koinonia/mutual-indwelling:

1\ empathetic listening – listening can be a greater service than speaking.. w the ears of god.. w/o agenda/assumption

listen.. listen – a simple message.. listen & clap.. listen to all the voices


michael nichols: ‘act of listening requires a submersion of the self and immersion in the other’

i know you ness

requires us to be receptive, not creative.. setting aside our frame of ref for other persons..  .. allow them to indwell us..

nichols: ‘w/o being listened to we are shut up in the solitude of our won hearts’..

as it could be..


2\ intercessory prayer – not so much called to pray to jesus on their behalf.. as called to pray w jesus for them.. frees us from taking the burden of intercession on ourselves..


they didn’t pray lord forgive them.. but lord forgive us


3\ team ministry – beyond the one pastor model

4\ marriage intimacy – closest union w/o loss of uniqueness.. mike mason: ‘to get us out beyond our depth.. out of the shallows our own own secure egocentricity and into the dangerous and unpredictable depths of a real interpersonal encounter’.. best gift to children (and church) to love each other well

marriage\ing et al

8 – passionate mission – the impulse of trinitarian ministry


david bosch: ‘to participate in mission is to participate in the movement of god’s love toward people.. ‘

in both physics and interpersonal relationships.. there is an enormous energy in resonance.. on same wavelength..


as we participate in the divine dance of love, we are captured by the divine mission..  cs lewis: ‘on the whole dance.. if you are close to it, the spray will wet you: i f you are not, you will remain dry’


the spirit enabled them to go, but more important, they went because the spirit was going. pentecost was more about the apostles joining the spirit than the spirit joining them

wrongheaded because tis ‘based on the faulty assumption that mission is primarily about what we do for god


(on wesley the traveling preacher making others mad for invading their parish ness) for ministerial frogs, their parish tends to be their world.. so they major ion meetings, methods, maintenance and machinery rather than mission.. they function more like keepers of the aquarium than fishers of men/women.. rather than viewing whole world as parish.. this leads them to involve congregation .. outside walls of church

getting whales out of sea world ness.. and getting out of the boxes/schools/spaces/bureaucracies.. et al


(on 2 doors) often in ministry we are so preoccupied w the first – working in the church so christ can enter – that we neglect the second – participating in christ’s larger mission in the world.. we need both doors, we serve a parish best when we don’t allow it to become our world..

2 convers as infra


so he was outside the gate of the vineyard.. i thought he would be facing me.. but he had his back to me.. i thought he would be looking at me and my vineyard. .. but his tear filled eyes were focused elsewhere  – on the world beyond hime.. that’s wha the seemed most concerned about t – not the renewal of my vineyard. or for that matter any of the vineyards.. but the redemption of the world

not slow ness – global equity.. everyone getting a go every day

if equity is everyone getting a go every day.. redefining public education becomes revolution of everyday life.. aka: global equity


it’s frightening because we’re out of control.. we’re afraid that we’re going to fall and won’t make it to the next bar.. our natural inclination is to stay in our comfort zone.. to cling to the bar we’re currently holding.. but to follow god in mission, we must be willing to risk and let go

let go ness


peter: ‘who was i that i could hinder god’.. participating w the trinitarian god in mission is like that.. he is the chief actor in the unfolding story, not us.. to keep from hindering god we’ve got to risk giving up control so that he can be in control…  often it will mean we risk looking like a fool and that we put our religious reputation on the line

un\reputation ness

erwin mcmanus: ‘the greatest danger that success brings, aside from arrogance, is the fear of losing what had been gained.. the courage and willingness to risk that breed success are endangered after success is obtained’

so it never seems to get easier.. each time i have to let go  of all the reputation and security and success i’ve accumulated .. always have to overcome doubts/fears

security.. sinclair perpetuation law ..  et al