Saturday, February 18, 2023

A reflection. . .

The leaders of every church, like the leader of every congregation, carries the dual role of pastor and teacher.  Some would try to make him also a CEO, an administrator running the business of the church as well.  Some would try to make him a visionary, a man with a plan which looks past the present into the future.  Sadly, these are on the rise and the necessity of the leader being pastor and teacher seems on the decline.  We are suffering precisely because of that.

To look at Benedict XVI and Francis is to see a study in contrasts.  Francis thinks he has a grand plan but has proven himself rather inept at the apparatus of power except in the crudest sense of that term.  Benedict had an understanding of his church and his place within that church and exercised that confidence carefully and thoughtfully.  Rome thought that theologian too distant and wanted someone to be a pastor.  Instead, Francis is hardly pastoral and certainly not theological.  The problems under Francis have multiplied and the confusion created by his lack of either pastoral or theological sensitivity are increased by his failings as an administrator.

Looking at our own church and its leaders, we have benefited from solid pastors and teachers and now is certainly not the time to choose between them or to opt for an administrator or visionary sort.  That is not to say that all of our national leaders have exercised the full scope of that pastoral and theological role to help make our identity and our witness clear.  In fact, there has been among some of those national leaders a certain reticence about getting ahead of the church.  Certainly, the tumultuous years of the 1970s were a test of both the theological and pastoral skills of our leadership and yet when it came to acting, then President J. A. O. Preus chose to wait until he had the authority from the convention to remove district presidents who were clearly acting outside their authority.  In more recent times leaders have found it easier to speak out than act upon the challenges.  An example that tested the theological and pastoral skills of district and synodical leadership was the rather tepid response to online sacraments and the less than salutary creativity of some in the face of the pandemic.

Within the congregation, the pastor finds himself put on the spot often.  Everything from who communes to the offense clear preaching of the church's doctrine and faith present the pastor with a dilemma.  Some, perhaps even many, have chosen to step back from exercising such authority and compromise where compromise creates more problems.  In the end, every church body and congregation finds a tension between the call to faithfulness and the desire to loved (or at least liked).  In the end the avoidance of clarity is as much a problem for the church body and the congregation as those who are clear but uncaring and lacking in the most basic pastoral skills.  We should not have to choose between a pastor and teacher and the essential office of pastor and teacher of the church should not give way to administrative or inspirational skills.

Congregations issuing calls and church bodies selecting leaders should be clear.  We will not settle for any less than a pastor who is an apt teacher and we will not choose administrative or visionary leadership skills as an appropriate substitute.  We need pastors who are leaders because they are faithful pastors and teachers.  That is certainly true on every level of the church and the agencies that live within the umbrella of the church.

1 comment:

Carl Vehse said...

"The leaders of every church, like the leader of every congregation, carries the dual role of pastor and teacher. Some would try to make him also a CEO, an administrator running the business of the church as well."

In the case of the Missouri Synod, it is not a church, but a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose members consist of congregational churches, ordained and commissioned ministers. The Missouri Synod's controlling Board of Directors included laymen. The Missouri Synod President is an ordained minister elected to the executive office for a three-year term by member congregations. The responsibilities of the President are constitutionially defined and specifically exclude being a called senior pastor of a member congregation, although the President may be called as an assisting pastor of a congregation, provided such services do not interfere with his official duties as President.