Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sean the Hot Lutheran: The Office of Holy Ministry

The Hot Michigander Organist writes:
My father and I have been talking a few times recently about our frustrations with the Office of Holy Ministry, or at least with some of its "officers". On his side, a pastor is promoting questionable programs that are un-Lutheran and encourage some false teachings. Certainly, he is promoting a contemporary worship program that is contrary to the liturgical service of God. He would like to see my former congregation become a mega-church, much like another LCMS congregation down the road. He is setting himself up as the "CEO" pastor, and has not had a large amount of success thusfar. My father thinks the problem is that Pastors are taught that they are God's voice to the world, and that without them, God's work and will would not be done. As a result, this builds an ego and leads to a lot of abuse. In the case of my former congregation, I think that's probably right on the money.

The one thing is, pastors ARE God's voice to His people. They are the called and ordained servants of the Word. They act "in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ". I want nothing less from a pastor. I think the unfortunate problem comes when pastors cease to perform their duties as Christ's minister and instead do their own "ministry" for God. The Church acknowledges that pastors are leaders of their congregations only as Christ is a leader of the whole Church. Christ was a shepherd, a very slave to His flock. Pastors too are slaves to us, the laypersons. Their shackles are the Divine Service. It is in the context of the liturgy that Christ gives himself in Word and Sacrament, through His called and ordained servant. It is in the liturgy where God's work is done. (Gottesdienst: Divine SERVICE or WORK... these things make so much sense! :)

No wonder the first thing a CEO-style pastor will do is to change the Divine Service: The liturgy is their handcuff. They are bound by it to serve the laity and not themselves. The one place where a step-by-step set of instructions does not exist for the Christ's ministry in the Divine Service is in the sermon. There most certainly is a framework in place however that indicates a Christian sermon: It preaches Christ, and Him crucified for sinners. It has Law, which shows man his sin, and it has Gospel which brings Christ to remedy that sin. The Lectionary is no accident or option as well. It is no surprise to me that the Lectionary and solid Christo-centric and Law/Gospel preaching are all thrown out quickly by the CEO pastor also. Free from the "shackles" of the liturgy and Christian preaching, they may take the "Divine Service" in any direction they choose, such as the theology of glory-even their own glory.

This brings us to my side of the issue: pastors who are being forced from their congregation. Perhaps it's not a lack of respect for the Office of Holy Ministry after all. Maybe congregations don't want their pastor to be their slave. Maybe congregations don't want Christ to serve them? It seems clear to me that any pastor who insists on the historic liturgy, especially when they insist on the many ceremonies that accompany it, is willfully and intentionally asking to be shackled. To be bound and chained to Christ and His cross, and stripped of their own glory. They donn vestments that hide themselves, showing only the Office they hold. They do not choose their own words, but instead speak only Christ's Words. Their Benediction, Pax, and Verba are not their own, but are Christ's. They may not speak their own comforting words, no matter how deeply they as individuals care for their parishioners. They speak only the comforting Words of Christ.

If this sort of pastor would insist that I do or consider something, I would listen because I know it is of God. If I have any doubt, this is the sort of pastor who would direct me to our Confessions and ultimately to Holy Scripture. He is worthy of our respect and trust, because we are not really respecting or trusting him at all. We trust and respect Christ, and therefore we respect His Office, wherever it is truly carried out.

I have experience with the former sort of pastor that my father is dealing with. These pastors make their demands on God's people as well. When one questions or has doubt, they are not directed to Holy Scripture or to the Lutheran Confessions, but are called names, put down, dismissed, or directed to human reason or emotional appeal. These pastors are not Christ's ministers. They are their own. What to do with one who has a call and yet builds his own glory instead of being a slave? I have no idea. I find comfort in Christ's Words that He gives to Timothy through His true minister: "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity."

The enemies of Christ seek to depose His ministers, while the enemies of Christ seek to lift up and support the pastors who will not be slaves to God's people. I would not be like them. It is a terrible and tragic thing to unseat one who has a proper call. I pray that Christ's ministers be received joyfully as slaves among God's people, who so desperately need the gifts of Christ. I pray that Christians not despise the shackles which bind our pastors to be Christ for us. I pray that I may continue to receive Christ freely and often from one of His true ministers, a slave to me, for I am the CEO: the CEO of sinners.
Indeed. Regarding CEO or Bill Hybels wannabes, I do acknowledge that there are times to question pastors. The thing is, however, the confessional types who simply unpack God's Law and Gospel and faithfully administer the Sacraments seem to welcome questions regarding the Scriptures, for they stand under God's Word.



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