08 September 2010

pastoring out the jesus creed, or St Francis' take on Jesus-work

Here is a line of thought that is not necessarily novel, but which needs to be restated . . . and kept in front of those who choose to minister in pastoral settings.

I have heard it said before that the role of the pastor can be summarized in "Preach the word; love the people." Although there are many who would be quick to point out how much more there is to pastoring and ministering than this, I believe it to be an overall adequate statement of the work of the pastor (at least within the context of church ministry). Why? Because it is the Jesus Creed being lived out vocationally from the role of the pastor.

The Jesus Creed is the profoundly simple notion of loving God and loving others, which for pastors can be appropriately understood in the work of preaching and loving. For a preacher to preach is to fulfill part of his calling and to live out his passion, and that becomes the first step of honoring the summons to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. But before there is an objection to the verbal work of preaching and giving sermons, I will give the appropriate nod to St. Francis, who reminded us that preaching is much more than our use of words. This works well within the boundaries of our simple definition, as many church leaders today simply do not model the Christian faith outside of their Sunday morning role. Yes, we must love God with all of our lives in order to proclaim the word.

Then there is the summons to love people, which isn't particularly unique as a general statement, but which gives the pastor special challenges that others will not typically encounter. And this is perhaps where much of the pastoral ministry in our culture has come off the tracks. Too often the call of church ministry is simply to deal with people without an adequate ministry of the word, and this leads to all sorts of problems in our congregations. The pastor is not placed by God to cater good feelings around his gathered few, but to share the truth of the Gospel in both word and deed, loving God with everything and loving others as they love themselves. It is a shame that our culture has unbalanced these proportions and demanded things from our clergy that simply are unbiblical in nature.

So, those of us who are pastoring in church ministry should keep this in mind: that we are in no way exempt from the lifestyle demands of the Jesus Creed, nor is our calling any higher or holier than anyone else's . . . for I believe that God has called and placed all people in the place where they are gifted and find opportunity to rise to the challenge of the faith. But it is a unique heritage this pastoral calling, complete with its own set of warnings and instructions. At the end of the day, all of the activities which demand our attention, eat away at our time, send us home confused, cause us to laugh and drop us to our knees in fervent prayer are found as part of the profoundly simple charge: preach the word, love the people.

(Preach always. If necessary, use words. ~ St Francis of Assisi)

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