Saturday, November 28, 2020

When pastors downplay their role as pastors. . .

It has been my experience that the Church faces greater danger from those who foster an aw shucks mentality toward the pastoral office than those who use it as justification for acting as despots and dictators.  The age of despots and dictators in the Church has passed (except for non-denominational and personality centered so-called churches of the media).  Popes even seem powerless to make Roman Catholics march in step with respect to doctrine or practice so who in their right mind thinks that an ordinary parish pastor can act like a king without challenge?

I assume there was a time when pastors were in danger of acting like demigods.  The dreaded herr Pastor of another era who stood on a pedestal and was aloof, inapproachable, and ruled the roost has been long gone.  Before antifa and protests tore down the statues, these pedestals were pulled out from underneath the pastors who insisted upon their own way.  The folks in the pew learned to vote with their pocketbooks or simply to move to another parish and the kingdoms of these would be rulers became small and smaller.  Oh, you still hear about them -- but mostly from those who want to treat their pastors like hired hands and who lord it over them as if they were despots and dictators who must be minded and obeyed.  Some of the curmudgeons of the internet still harp on clergy privilege and authority as if we still lived in the age when pastors were given swords as well as staffs when they were ordained and installed.

Rather, the real danger facing the churches (not just Lutheran) are those pastors who refuse to be pastors or who have crafted an idea of ministry which mirrors life coaching more than it does the pastoral office.  They think by never using the term you from the pulpit they are being humble and including themselves in their condemnations and inspirations.  They think that by treating the office as if it were nothing special, like everyone has it or could, they are being egalitarian.  They think that vestments or clerical collars draw undue attention to pastors while torn jeans, scraggly khakis, a worn polo, or a faded tee shirt (like the rest of the guys in the pews) makes them accessible and ordinary.  Well, it does make them ordinary but in the worst way and certainly works against their purpose and office as icons of Christ and instruments through which He works on behalf of His people.

Truth is that the office and the ministry is continually being reinvented in the wrong way.  Pastors should not downplay their role for effect but rather need to live up to the role and purpose of the office that they bear for the sake of the ministry of Christ.  No one is suggesting that pastors are sinless or even less sinful than lay or that they are above lay in some hierarchy of godliness but the character of the office is that they are stewards of the mysteries, instruments through whom God works to bestow His grace in His gifts to His people.  This should not diminish the office or the men who fill it but ennoble it and encourage them to strive even more toward fulfilling that office and its responsibilities more faithfully.

There may have been a time when God's people were in danger of pastors on their high horse but today the greater danger is from pastors who find nothing special in the ministry or strive for being leaders of men instead of agents of God.  And that, my friends, is all around us.

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