Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Trained for a world that does not exist anymore. . .
But. . . if we are training pastors for the Gospel, raising up men who know the Word and how to preach and teach it, equipping seelsorgers who can care for the people of God in every circumstance with the means of grace, making father confessors who can address sinners with both the call to repentance and the voice of absolution, and making modern day prophets speak the Word of the Lord that endures forever, well, then, it does not matter how the world changes, they will be ready and able to do God's bidding on behalf of God's people.
I am old and cranky. I have a globe in which the bulk of the world across the Pacific was marked with red and the name USSR. I remember before I opened my email in the morning to find hundreds of things from parishioners, District and Synod, sales people, and junk. I recall the day when an answering machine was new technology and nobody had a cell phone glued to their ear. I long for the days when we looked into the faces and eyes of people instead of into screens. I can still see the weekday morning Bible classes filled with young women who did not work outside the home. I can even recall the day when a pastor fresh out of seminary lived in a parsonage and had a salary and benefits under $12K a year.
Those days are gone. Our lives are defined more and more by technology. Nations have come and gone. Rogue terrorists rise and fall right under our noses and not just in the Middle East. Nearly everything we own is now made in a country once our mortal enemy. Great orators speak 30 second speeches. News tweets and comments and facts are indistinguishable. Children get the choose their gender. Modern day education disdains nearly everything I was taught. But guess what? Sin remains as the great stain upon our humanity and death still casts is long, dark shadow over us and all creation. The smokescreen of change often seems to mask the things that do not change, the things for which Christ became incarnate, lived obediently, died sacrificially, and rose victoriously.
If we are intent upon training pastors to fit the moment, the snapshot in time that we know now or think we can predict 4 or 8 years hence, we delude ourselves. The men who go to the seminary are not immune from the problems around them or naive about the nature of and pace of social, cultural, and political change. We do not need to teach them what is happening in the world. We must equip them with the tools of God's Word, with a knowledge of Christian history, with skills to preach and teach, and with confidence in the means of grace to address God's people in the midst of such problems and changes AND to address the people in the world who do not yet know the changeless Christ.
I have no hope and confidence in our ability to produce men who are intuitive about and equipped to navigate the manifold changes of this world and, indeed, this mortal life. I have great confidence in our ability to produce men who know the Word of God, who believe it, who can preach and teach it, and who can care for the people of God through the means of grace. I have great confidence that if we do this, we HAVE equipped our pastors with all they need to be faithful and effective for the sake of the Kingdom no matter how much the world changes over the 40-50 years of their life from college through retirement. If we are faithful, God will do what He has promised. If we abandon the things over which God has placed us to pursue another venue of leadership in our world, we will present to Him more an impediment for rather than an instrument of His purpose and gracious will.