Friday, June 29, 2007

The Daunting Task Pastors Face

Erich warned us in his last post that "today's laity typically thinks of the pastor as an employee under the congregation's authority, hired to entertain them with what their tickling ears want to hear."

Several years ago, I heard a pastor read a quotation about the difficulties and temptations of the Office of Holy Ministry. Apparently, this pastor had been installed by his old professor and mentor, John T. Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions and Director of Field Education at Concordia Theological Seminary.

Pastor Pless read some very wise, biblical words of warning to him:
We are going to ordain you to this ministry, and we want your vow that you will stick to it. This is not a temporary job assignment but a way of life that we need lived out in our community.

We know you are launched on the same difficult belief venture in the same dangerous world as we are. We know your emotions are as fickle as ours, and your mind is as tricky as ours. That is why we are going to ordain you and why we are going to exact a vow from you. We know there will be days and months, maybe even years, when we won’t feel like believing anything and won’t want to hear it from you. And we know there will be days and weeks and maybe even years when you won’t feel like saying it. It doesn’t matter. Do it!

You are ordained to this ministry, vowed to it. There may be times when we come to you as a committee or delegation and demand that you tell us something else than what we are telling you now. Promise right now that you won’t give in to what we demand of you.

You are not the minister of our changing desires, or our secularized hopes for something better. With these vows of ordination we are lashing you to the mast of Word and sacrament so you will be unable to respond to the siren voices. There are many other things to be done in this wrecked world, and we are going to be doing at least some of them, but if we don’t know the foundational realities with which we are dealing - God, kingdom, gospel - we are going to end up living futile, fantasy lives.

Your task is to keep telling the basic story, representing the presence of the Spirit, insisting on the priority of God, speaking the biblical words of command, promise, and invitation. (Eugene Peterson,
The Contemplative Pastor, p. 145)
As we consider how we might 'support, encourage, and defend' our pastors, it might be good for us to remember the daunting task that they face in their ministry of preaching Law and Gospel.

The Old Adam is in each of us, and we all might be tempted to sing the siren song once in a while. Sometimes we would hear what we want, rather than what we need. Praise God for men who ignore the sirens, and may God's grace continue to sustain them!



Preachrboy said...

How interesting that you post this on the very DAY I receive another pre-convention communique' from Jesus First.

The latest Delegate-to-Delegate, among other doozies, suggests that "Truth and Purity" is a "siren's song".

Looks like they are using the same aphorism to a "different tune".

Welcome back, guys, by the way. You have been sorely missed.

Tim the Enchanter said...

Thanks, Pastor!