Friday, September 20, 2019
More than meets the eye. . .
I was reading to my Bible study from 2 Timothy in which St. Paul commented on the role of mother and grandmother Eunice and Lois and their faith upon the man and the vocation of young Timothy. It is a reminder that many of those preparing for seminary (like the ones nearing retirement) were supported along the way by faithful moms, grandmothers, and other family. I cannot encourage congregations and families enough in their prayers for young men and their discernment of the pastoral vocation and their support along the way as they are formed for that ministry
Of course, the elephant in the room right now is the burden laid upon those considering and choosing to become pastors by the sins and failings of those who are (or were) pastors. It is a painful time for the Church and a painful moment for those who may consider but find the burden of the clergy and their very public sins more than they can bear. I understand this. But this is not simply the many sins of some pastors. It is the way Satan is using this to undermine both those currently in the office as well as discouraging those who might be. This is a time of spiritual warfare for the Church and for those who are and those preparing to be pastors.
Satan hates anything of God and Satan hates pastors and those preparing for this service. Satan knows that the easiest way to strike against those in the pew is to tempt the pastors who lead them and to magnify their sins in a very public way. Jesus knew this and cautioned the disciples of old and those who succeed them by quoting from Zechariah (13:7), Strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. It is Satan's goal to scatter the flock and he begins by undermining the nobility of the pastoral calling and attacking those who are pastors.
Let us be frank. Sometimes this happens right within the congregation. As I write this I note several pastors who resigned from their parishes and from the clergy roster as victims of congregational conflict. Now maybe they did not handle it well but the fact is that Satan fuels just this kind of problem in a profound effort to weaken congregations, discourage people in the pews, and cause pastors to give up the vocation they trained so hard for and which the Church conferred upon them.
This is not simply about statistics or cultural change or demographics or economics but about the real battle that is taking place inside our congregations and within the homes and lives of our pastors (and those who might become pastors). Now more than ever, this is a time in which we need prayerful support for our pastors and for those preparing for the pastoral office. I encourage you as God's people to pray for your pastor, to prayer for the parish in which he serves, to pray for those in college and seminary right now preparing to become pastors, and to pray for those young men who are in catechism class or middle school or high school and watching as they consider the Lord's call.
We can answer all the reasons for declining numbers of young men preparing for the pastoral office with good and earnest programs but the reality is that Satan would still be at work undermining our programs and finding cracks in the programs and in the men touched by them. If you see your pastor struggling or want to make sure that there will be a man to follow your pastor when his time of active service ends, do everything in your power to help. Financially support the seminaries and support the programs in place to help with educational debt. Financially support the congregation so that the pastor can turn his full attention to his work (and will have health insurance to cover him and his family). These are both very important. But do not neglect the ministry of prayer as you lift up the man whom you call pastor today and those who you may call pastor in the future. Pray and pray and pray. Pray in the worship service and pray on your own. Pray against the plans and powers of the evil one who seeks to overthrow God's people especially by wounding their leaders.