Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Another goody. . .

“Who is going to save our Church? Do not look to the priests. Do not look to the bishops. It’s up to you, the laity, to remind our priests to be priests and our bishops to be bishops.”  -- Abp Fulton Sheen

Sheen is full of good quotes and pithy sayings.  This is another one that is spot on.  We presume that those who lead us will know what to do and will have the courage to do it.  That is not always the case.  It is even more true in the Church.  Leadership is a wonderful gift but it comes often with the weakness of desiring to be liked, loved, and respected.  This weakness can cripple the leader who does not want to say what people do not what to hear and who does not want to lead people where they do not want to go.  In our culture of polls, surveys, and opinion groups we are very good at identifying what some, perhaps many, of our people want.  We are, as this election cycle points out, not so good at raising up honorable, honest, and courageous leaders with integrity.  What is true for the political realm, is also true in the Church.

It is up to the folks in the pew to remind their pastors on Sunday morning to be pastors (and throughout the week).  It is so tempting to trade in the old shepherd's cloak for some voodoo stone that you can use to cast for vision and borrow the latest marketing or business gimmick to grow the Church.  Pastors get this stuff in the mail to the point where even the faithful ones wonder if there might not be something to it all.  If they are going to resist these temptations, the folks in the pews need to remind their pastors to be pastors, to do what the undershepherds of Christ are called to do, and to pray for them always to remember to be pastors.

You in the pews are the ones best equipped to dull the shine on the newest fad of leadership or motivational theory and remind your pastor to preach the Word faithfully -- in season and out. . . to administer the Sacraments faithfully to all the people. . . to catechize the faithful over and over and over again because their are many who lie in God's name. . . to admonish the erring not from a position of moral superiority but because the Word of God demands it. . . to visit the sick, the home bound, and the lapsed so that they too may hear the Word of the Lord.  If you encourage your pastor to do these things, then he will not lose heart or be distracted by the glitter of things that are all glam and no substance.

In the same way the faithful are best equipped to remind those who lead the larger geographical groupings of our churches to be no less than good pastors.  Our DPs or Bishops have become administrators and fire departments -- they follow procedure and rush to put out fires and then have little time to teach and lead.  They are not in the parishes often enough to know what is going on there and they do not know the pastors under their supervision as they function as pastors but only outside of Sunday morning.  I do not blame them.  They are under the same illusions that tempt us all -- especially that policy manuals will lead us into the Kingdom of God.  But they work best and fulfill their callings truly when they are no less than pastors in their care for the flocks they supervise.  Peace making is a great thing but it accomplishes no peace to paper over serious divide and unfaithfulness of doctrine and practice.  We need not a balance but an earnest desire and strong passion for both -- not one at the expense of the other.  Pray for your DP and for the Synod President as well.  They are only as good as the encouragement they receive to be faithful and the prayers that support their work.

Sheen had it just right.  Those who exercise the pastoral care of God's people locally and those who oversee it over a geographical area are not capable of being shepherds unless we want them to shepherd and unless we follow their faithful leadership.  May the Lord grant us faithful pastors and bishops but even more may the Lord grant us faithfulness among the baptized who will settle for nothing less!


Carl Vehse said...

For some history on the activities of the laity in the Missouri Synod, read Uncertain Saints: The Laity in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, 1900-1970 (Alan Niehaus Graebner, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975).

John Joseph Flanagan said...

The laity look to their pastors for leadership. Leaders are supposed to learn to accept feedback however, they are not to relinquish their own obligations. If those of us in the pews have to remind our pastors to avoid the latest fashions in ministry and just preach the word of God, then we have a big problem, and the issue goes back to the LCMS itself, and the seminaries. I have found few people in the pews equipped to critique the church. The LCMS must simply go back to the basics and avoid feeding into every new innovation. Not every new idea is a good idea. We cannot resist all change, but we should prioritize things.....preach the word first.