Friday, May 09, 2014

Pastor As Proclaimer In A Changing World

Whatever cultural props we thought supported our general world view are either gone or quickly going.  You
can no longer expect public schools to teach roughly the same moral system you do.  You can no longer expect the American legal system to "protect" our "traditional values."  You can no longer expect people to be morally enraged at the same things you are.  You can no longer expect people to have a general sense of what you do and what you believe when you tell them you are a pastor.

All this and more means the pastor now carries a certain kind of burden of proof.  I do not mean they need to justify their actual existence  (the point of all this is to underline the essential necessity of pastors) but that they need to pour effort into reclaiming their necessary role in the congregation and their culture.  So here are a few thoughts to help pastors and Christians think through this role.

1. Pastors become heralds of Christian orthodoxy. Right now a lot of pastoral practice centers on the practicality of what they bring to a congregation and a sermon, often reducing their role to a glorified counselor or self-help enthusiast.  Our culture is saturated with these kinds of people and so your congregation probably hears a lot of this kind of thing from day to day.  The Pastor does not need to be a copycat with a spiritual veneer, but something different altogether.

2. Pastors become intelligent heralds of Christian orthodoxy.  Not only do Christian pastors proclaim the truths once and for all delivered to the saints, they need to do it wisely.  This requires work; it means the pastor needs to intelligently engage the realities around him or her and the pressures on the lives of the congregation.  It does no good to preach and counsel as if we live in some imagined halcyon days when people grew up in church and simply need to be reminded of their Sunday school lessons.  The pastor is proclaimer and apologist.

3. Pastors work hard to let their faith transform all they are.  This may sound obvious on some level, but once we begin to do some serious self-analysis we will likely find out how much we have been shaped by the culture we live in.  This problem grows more serious the more post-Christian our culture becomes.  If you are a political creature, how honest can you be with yourself about how much of your biblical interpretation is based on your political preferences?  Are you a traditionalist in your faith fighting hard against everything that strikes you as different or changing?  This topic is complicated, but pastors must begin the process of doing this work on their own worldviews.

4. Pastors do not talk like everyone else.  One sure way of sticking out in a conversation or forcing someone to stop and think about what you are talking about is to use vocabulary and categories they never use themselves.  The more TV people watch the fewer words they use, the more alike everyone sounds, and the less individuals think for themselves.  The pastor, who has hopefully read their Augustine and Barth, has a completely different set of ideas to draw from about life and thus traffics in different, deeper, vocabulary.

5. Pastors must rise out of Scripture when they sermonize.  Again, this may sound obvious to some but I grow increasingly worried that pastoral work in 21st century America has less and less to do with the Bible and more and more to do with broader cultural and political concerns.  The people who actually make it into the pews on Sundays have spent all week listening to prosaic propaganda designed to sell them something shallow or short on actual life.  So when they sit down the pastor had better be different, and that requires letting the Word and Spirit do the talking.

1 comment:

“Messenger to the Thoughtful" said...

Outstanding in every way! Dallas Willard, just before he went to be with the Lord, expressed a deep desire that pastors might once again be regarded as intellectual leaders, with godly character.