Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sweet words of surprise. . .

Pr Christopher Hall writes on his blog (This Side of the Pulpit) of a complaint he received (perhaps the first of substance in his 8 month tenure at another Grace Lutheran Church -- this one in Tulsa).  I will copy his words directly:

I’ve been Senior Pastor of Grace Lutheran for eight months and sixteen days and have now come to the end of my honeymoon. I got the first real complaint, though it was minor, and really more about the past than the present. But it was there and I am so glad I received it.

Glad? Certainly. First, because the person with the concern called me first, voiced his concern and listened to my response. Second, he said “others” agreed, but named names! Third, when it came up in a meeting, the person listened to my response, appreciated my assurance I would re-evaluate and look into the issue, and then said words I’ve heard rarely in my ministry: “Ultimately, you are the spiritual overseer of this congregation and your decision will be respected and followed.”

He writes of the surprise in hearing the final line respecting his role as Pastor, the spiritual overseer of the congregation.  I must admit, I have never heard those words put forth by one who has a complaint.  I have heard words respecting my decisions when folks agree with me but never the kind of honest and faithful spiritual deference given by this man.

The truth is that no Pastor escapes conflict or complaint -- unless, of course, he stands for nothing at all.  But the problem is honoring and respecting the Pastoral role as spiritual overseer.  It is easy to say words of approval when you agree with them but when you dispute something, it is much harder to honor and respect the authority of another.  The spiritual oversight of the Pastor is both something earned and something conferred.  On the one hand, you earn it by your demeanor, your faithful service demonstrated to the people you serve, and your record of decisions in matters spiritual.  On the other hand, it is an authority conferred by the call, ordination, and then installation. We live in an age in which it is harder than ever to earn this authority and, at the same time, people are leery of granting it to those whom they do not know.  Perhaps this is why parishes and Pastors find themselves more easily consumed by conflict than at any time prior.

Respect for authority is not a mark of defeat or weakness but the glue that binds community together.  I am amazed and surprised by the sweet words of respect this complainant offered.  I wish we would find it offered more universally and forthrightly across the Church.  I am not suggesting that lay folks roll over and play dead but I am saying that seminary education, pastoral certification, parish experience, and spiritual maturity are worthy of our respect -- especially when we disagree with the decisions made by those who exercise spiritual oversight over us.  This applies on many levels.   

Good to hear and I hope I will have the chance to hear these sweet words amid an honest but respectful complaint.


Anonymous said...

Most people fail to realize that the occupations of pastor and teacher are burnout jobs. Pastor has enough stress on his plate without someone like me bothering him with more. For that reason, when I strongly disagree with my pastor, I keep my mouth shut and make sure that my offering money is redirected to specific projects with which I agree. I am grateful that I am never questioned why I give the way I do. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

My LCMS church is firmly entrenched in Willow Creek and Saddleback. Therefore, I carefully redirect my money so that it does not support the Purpose-driven agenda.

Which is the lesser of the two evils: 1.) Staying in my LCMS church a putting up with the Willow Creek/Saddleback garbage; or 2.) Converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. I do not want to be an ersatz evangelical with a "Lutheran" label, and yet I am not sure I could fully accept praying to dead church official (church-sanctioned saints) and to icons.

Pastor Peters said...


For that reason, when I strongly disagree with my pastor, I keep my mouth shut and make sure that my offering money is redirected to specific projects with which I agree.


How does the Pastor direct where offering money goes?

bjr said...

Our pastor is not a strong preacher or teacher and He tends to dumb down Lutheran Theology unless put on the spot. I have talked with him several times about these issues and try to encourage him to put his knowledge to use more effectively for the strength of faith of the church and its members. It seems that he is publicly afraid of good doctrine. He knows it but will not teach it or preach it. I do respect him as my pastor by virtue of his office and do not speak ill of him to others. But I must admit that I will not invite friends to church because his preaching is not a credit to the one true faith. I don't think he respects his own office very well. I even have a hard time going to church because I spend the next week stewing about it. What advice is out there on how to address this situation.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters:

Some of that offering money is being set aside to buy Willow Creek and Saddleback endorsed books and videos for Sunday morning adult bible studies and for use in small groups.

I listen to Pirate Christian Radio and hear condemnations of emergent church Preachers. Conversely, I go to my LCMS church and see those same materials being promoted. I am now thoroughly confused in my faith. I don't know what to believe anymore.

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