My boy Todd Hiestand tagged me awhile back on this and I’ve been hesitant lately as to how transparent I want to be in this medium. But I think it’s important for folks to understand pastoral ministry. I want to post about it here not really to simply confess but reveal that the office of “pastor” is in desperate need of understanding and some reform. In a way this is my Lenten journal.
I’ll try to do 5. Here goes number 1.
1) I don’t have all the answers.
That scares me at times but this admission may scare others more. After all, I’m Pastor-Man…
There’s so much pressure on pastors in the immigrant church perpetuated by our cultural notions of honor and shame to have all the answers and look like we have it all together. Sure I have time to devote to exegesis, study and meditation on Scripture. I went to seminary for theological training and even received a honorable recognition upon graduation. I’ve followed Jesus for some years. I do have a mix of answers, opinions and convictions but there are things I don’t know and things I’m still wrestling through.
Providing answers is no easy task for pastors. It’s a little tricky. I think we like to be and people want us to be PEZ dispensers of spiritual knowledge. There are some who are gifted to do this, like Tim Keller, who has recently written a new book that provides answers for these contemporary times. Let’s not compare ourselves now. The truth is that many pastors and leaders really do not know how to deal with people. Prescribed reductionistic biblical answers don’t cut it. People have the tendency to quickly turn answers into legalism or permissiveness.
In times of great change and uncertainty people are hungry for answers and solutions from someone to help them navigate through it all. They want guidance, security and support. They’re looking for that great leader. Hillary, Obama, McCain?
How should a pastor lead in these times? We’ve seen many models of pastoral leadership based on power and authority. We’ve witnessed it from the pulpit in the preaching and application of the Holy Scripture. We’ve even seen the results. We all have blindspots. If we’re really honest, even our theology has blindspots.
Don’t get me wrong. Credibility and competence are important to this office. In obedience we seek to make disciples of all nations, teaching and demonstrating the Gospel of life. The Apostle Peter exhorts us to always be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have. I’m speaking of a position, attitude and ultimately a heart issue that is poisonous. It’s self-righteousness. It’s not the way of Jesus. The perpetual downward pull of Jesus defies and disrupts all patterns of life. It messes with what we think we know.
Just look at the life of Job. His closest friends tried to provide answers for his affliction. They were “miserable comforters”. At the end of it all Job still never received answers for his cross. God remains God and we’re reminded that we’re not. His life has become hope for us.
I believe our task in teaching and in leadership is to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable” or quite simply lead people to the reality, significance and power of the cross. I must believe that and live it out daily myself.
I must do all this with utmost humility.
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” – Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians
I’ll journey with you. Walk with me.
We’ll seek to do life together the way it ought to be done as the Spirit leads us into all truth.