Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pastors and Presence, and a Bonhoeffer Quote

There's been some good back and forth lately about the nature of pastoring, with different models being proffered, and some discussion over which type of pastor is needed at this moment.  Mark Galli got things rolling with this.  Tod Bolsinger argued against more chaplains, in favor of a new kind of missionary-leader. Then Chaplain Mike wrote in praise of the chaplain pastor.

Certainly not my area of expertise, but my two cents is, this is not like personality types.  Many are going to say that if a guy has the gifts and persona to grow a huge church, then that's what he should do, and the tasks of meeting with everyday people-- to know them and shepherd them-- can be secondary.  This is not going to cut it.  To this idea, in happy contrast for the little people, stands the very word "pastor." A pastor pastors, or else he's not a pastor, it would seem.  Jesus' "big" work was interrupted many times by the "small" work of individual attention, of paradigm shifting for the everyday people.  This can't be over-simplified as one particular task, but one thing it's not is carelessness for the sheep, or de-personalization of the work at hand.  One pastor I know recently said he doesn't want his church to get bigger than will allow him to know everyone personally. This warmed my heart.

I would sum this up as the ministry of presence, and it's central to the yearning of Advent, and the celebration of Christmas.  Being there is the Way of Jesus, of the Incarnation.  The awareness of Jesus' here-ness is what changes us, and this is accomplished by his Coming.  That's what the Kingdom announcement is all about. For myself, this is a very attractive alternative to the subject I've been haunted by in the last few posts.

Bonhoeffer, in no uncertain terms, makes the issue's weight quite clear (can't he ever just lighten up?) through Matthew 9-10.  The last paragraph has much to say about this:

The Savior looks with compassion on his people, the people of God.  he could not rest satisfied with the few who had heard his call and followed. He shrank from the idea of forming an exclusive little coterie with his disciples. Unlike the founders of the great religions, he had no desire to withdraw them from the vulgar crowd and initiate them into an esoteric system of religion and ethics.  He had come, he had worked and suffered for the sake of all his people...  
Where is the good shepherd they needed so badly? What good was it when the scribes herded the people into the schools, when the devotees of the law sternly condemned sinners without lifting a finger to help them? What use were all these orthodox preachers and expounders of the Word, when they were not filled by boundless pity and compassion for God's maltreated and injured people?  What they need is good shepherds, good "pastors."  "Feed my lambs" was the last charge Jesus gave to Peter.  The Good Shepherd protects his sheep against the wolf, and instead of fleeing he gives his life for the sheep.  He knows them all by name and loves them.  He knows their distress and their weakness.  He heals the wounded, gives drink to the thirsty, sets upright the falling, and leads them gently, not sternly, to pasture.  He leads them on the right way.  He seeks the one lost sheep, and brings it back to the fold.... 
No man dare presume to come forward and offer himself [as a laborer for the harvest] on his own initiative, not even the disciples themselves.  Their duty is to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers at the right moment, for the time is ripe...
They are not left free to choose their own methods or adopt their own conception of their task.  Their work is to be Christ-work, and therefore they are absolutely dependent on the will of Jesus.  Happy are they whose duty is fixed by such a precept, and who are therefore free from the tyranny of their own ideas and calculations. 

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