you’ve heard of the three Ps, but should there be a fourth?

You’ve heard of the three Ps. I’m sure you have.

Spinning out of passages like Colossians 1.24-2.5, it is argued that Paul’s ministry strategy consisted of proclaiming the gospel to people — an activity he saturated in prayer.

These three Ps are how Paul sought to move people towards maturity (or perfection, teleion) in Christ. And this, we’re told, is how we should operate too.

And it makes a whole lot of sense. Expressing the conviction that God promises to work as the news about Jesus is spoken in the context of personal relationships. Which means we don’t have to be expert counsellors or have magnetic (or forceful or manipulative) personalities to help people press forward as Christians.

But I’ve been wondering if there might be room for a fourth P?

Not that I want to cancel out the others. Or even particularly add to them. But I suspect it would help us extend and sharpen them up in terms of the goal they all drive towards to think about each person’s pathway to Christian maturity.

Like I say, this isn’t meant to replace or hold the other Ps hostage. But it is meant to help us get concrete on how we hope to see the ministry strategy play out. Which see it doing in two ways:

First, it will force us to get specific as we seek to fill out the content of the ‘maturity’ we aim for. Among other places, this could take us back to Colossians — and to the logic of the letter (which appears to be a self-consciously worked example of Paul’s ministry strategy applied to a group of believers).

There we’d see that the vision Paul has of maturity is one in which Christians calibrate their inner compass by the new identity they’ve received through their union with Christ in his death and resurrection (2.6-3.4). And this inner recalibration is plays out not only in personal holiness but also in our relationships in our family, church, and secular work/community context (3.5-4.6).

Second, it will make us embrace what I like to call ‘next step’ thinking — not necessarily plotting out other people’s entire life trajectory but at least being able to open up a conversation with them about what the next step or two towards maturity could look like for them.

My hunch is that in doing this such fourth P, ‘next step’ thinking will allow us to integrate our development of ministry structures (and where you’ve got people, you’ve got structures — de facto if not de jure) with the biblical priority of people, prayer and proclamation.

What do you reckon?

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