One of the principal claims of Peter Marty is that sound parish ministry is rooted in a pastor’s commitment to, and skill for, shaping Christian community that is distinctive. Some of this “shaping work” comes through nurtured instincts of the pastor and some of it arises from gifted leaders trained within a congregation. While many churchgoers may assume that their chief purpose is to receive personal spiritual nourishment from their church, Marty argues that people of faith — whether they know it or not — are hungry for a sense of community. They yearn for relationships of deep meaning. They are fascinated by the prospect of giving their life away as much as they are in receiving life. They are intrigued by the idea that a strange menagerie of people would gather together to form mutual commitments, and bond to one another to create the lovely and often messy organism we call “a congregation.”
In the final analysis, the benefit of a well-formed congregation is that members within it end up prospering from the influence of one another’s faith and experience – a far richer joy than simply going home with a new sermon tidbit or the echo of one’s favorite hymn ringing in one’s ears.
Peter writes about the vocational responsibility pastors have to shape a particular kind of Christian community in: For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry