Organizing for Mission: New Testament Perspectives and Strategies

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) is a graduate school of California Lutheran University.  As Rector, Pickett is responsible for overseeing the life and administration of PLTS.

Pickett was ordained in 1989 and was the pastor of congregations in Kansas and Oklahoma. He earned his PhD from the University of Sheffield, England. His recent scholarship on Luke-Acts interprets the texts through a political theology lens. He has written and presented on economic aspects of New Testament texts and their significance for today’s contexts. He is the author of The Cross in Corinth: The Social Significance of the Death of Jesus (Sheffield Academic Press, 1997) and “Conflicts at Corinth” in Christian Origins: A People’s History of Christianity (Fortress Press, 2005) as well as a number of articles. Pickett lives out his commitment to bringing faith into the public sphere in his research, writing and involvement with local faith-based community organizing.

For the past four years, the Rev. Dr. Ray Pickett and a group of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America leaders have engaged in community organizing to build relationships with neighbors and work together with a variety of partners to address issues such as racism, economic inequality and environmental problems. For three years, he chaired the committee that developed Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago’s (LSTC) curriculum for preparing leaders for a church that is more engaged in communities and the struggle for justice. His research interests include political theology and political, cultural and economic interpretations of biblical texts.

He came to his role as Rector of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary after seven years as a parish pastor and twenty-one years teaching New Testament, most recently at the LSTC.  For the last several years he has been involved with faith-rooted community organizing. He is accompanying a national group of ELCA pastors and leaders from all over the country who are using and adapting the arts of community organizing to positively impact their neighborhoods. As a pastor, teacher, and community organizer, his center of gravity has always been the prophetic ministry of Jesus who inspired people to enact a shared vision, values, and practices he called the kingdom of God. Empowered by the Spirit he brought healing and renewal to people in his own Galilean community. Pickett understands this as our foundational narrative, and it is a model that can be adapted in our own contexts as we build relationships with people and organizations in the city.

What would ministry and the formation of leaders look like if we took our cue from Jesus and saw the larger community as an extension of the congregation and focused our attention on our common life? It would be interesting to learn how our neighbors perceive us and what we do, and to learn from them how we could serve them more effectively. What would it look like for us to embody the way of Jesus in word and deed so that people could see why we gather around these stories and a meal every week?

Here is a link to a Google site created by the Rev. Dr. Ray Pickett for using community organizing rubrics as a hermeneutical lens for reading the Gospel of Luke:

Also attached is an essay by Dr. Pickett on “Jesus and the Christian Gospels” for the Fortress Commentary on the New Testament.   It doesn’t explicitly refer to organizing, but the influence is recognizable. The background on the socio-political and economic context of Jesus and the Gospels and the section on Jesus and the Renewal of Community Life might be useful.

Jesus Gospels – Fortress

Also attached is one of several PowerPoint presentations Dr. Pickett has used to talk about Jesus and Community Organizing.

Jesus – Community Organizer