The Pastoral Scene
Last week, i met The Stig for a Very Serious Conversation. Except it wasn’t The Stig of course because everyone knows The Stig isn’t One but Many and is far more circumspect about revealing his/their identity(ies).
Then on the way out of the house yesterday, i grabbed a book off the top of a towering pile of unread books and it was a good companion that segued somewhat with ongoing discussions. In the chapter on “Shepherding Souls” in Murray A Capill’s “Preaching with Spiritual Vigour (Including Lessons from the Life and Practice of Richard Baxter)”, Capill makes the following points:
- in recent years, the corporate business model has been one of the more dominant models of church leadership – the senior pastor is the church’s CEO has drive, foresight, motivation and determination, defines the church’s goals, and manages and motivates the various people under him. But Paul’s charge in Acts 20:28 is to “be shepherds of the church of God”. So the pastor is not just to “self-watch” (dealt with in the preceding chapter) but to “flock-watch”;
- although preaching is of central importance to the life of a church, it must go hand-in-hand with effective pastoring;
- in bringing God’s Word to a congregation, a preacher does so as their pastor. The best person to preach to a congregation is their own minister rather than some itinerant who does not sustain a pastoral relationship with them. It is the pastor who knows them by name, loves them, lives with them and cares for them. It is he who is accountable to them, and who will live with them through times of trial. He is to feed them by way of expository doctrinal preaching, and also to protect, encourage, watch over, help, assist, spur on, refresh, and care for his flock. He is bind up the wounded, deal tenderly with the young, reprove the belligerent and rescue the straying. Much of this pastoral work can and should be done from the pulpit but the minister is not two people: sometimes a preacher and sometimes a pastor. He is one: a pastor-preacher, who complements his preaching with diligent pastoring, and who pastors faithfully from the pulpit;
- the Puritan vision of the pastor was that of a physician who is entrusted with a certain number of people for whose spiritual health and well-being he was responsible;
- the first necessity of a pastor would be diagnosing the condition of the souls of his people. He has to be adept at analysing spiritual disease, seeing the root cause of the problem, and being able to describe clearly and accurately the malady of the soul. Any physician who merely treats symptoms without accurate diagnosis ultimately does more harm than good. Similarly a pastor who fails to really understand the spiritual problems of his people, and proceeds to apply quick-fix remedies, harms their spiritual well-being. The good shepherd will be concerned to understand people, to probe their hearts and consciences, to uncover deep-seated ills, and to address the greatest and most urgent needs of their souls;
- the physician of the soul should then be able to prescribe biblical remedies for the ills he had diagnosed. Biblical principles have to be specifically applied to the needs of the individual, not by way of pre-packaged solutions. For effectiveness in this work, Baxter stressed the importance of knowing individually and personally the people in the congregation. Christ cared for individuals, not just for the flock as a whole;
- any personal knowledge of people must be in the context of love. It is the church of God that the pastor is called to oversee, and when the energy wanes and zeal flags, this thought must stir the pastor to action again. For Christ has purchased the church with his own blood, so the pastor must not be negligent. The pastor must desire to show love to God’s people and actually show practical love, kindness and generosity to them;
- Baxter arranged to see about 14 families each week so as to be able to cover all 800 families in his parish within the year, and so, far from aspiring to a larger church, longed for a much smaller parish where he could give his people more time to discover their spiritual needs and meet them.
The ability to understand and preach God’s Word faithfully, i suppose, can possibly be taught and caught, or at least achieved with reasonable and sincere effort.
But the pastoring bit is rather rough. If the church is a group of sometimes saved sinners, then you’ll get all sorts in there. Some people’s difficulties are obvious – adultery, greed, etc. Some are less obvious and may even be encouraged: an appointed church leader who has the propensity to lie, pretend not to understand things, and as the leader’s own sister said, to be good and adhere to whatever the rules are – perhaps then giving the sister the erroneous idea that the Christian life, like any other aspect of life, is about being feted because of how much you play by the club’s rules. Or perhaps one discovers, while trying to minister to people, that someone else has sidled up to them and given them cause to be envious at how much better they could have been treated (so much more attention! so much more fun!) if they only had this other person as care-taker, and so on. The list is limited only by the perversity of men and women everywhere.
Yet surely the reason for this is that Christians are saved not because they are nicer than others but because they have trusted that Jesus has paid the price for their sins.
But this does not mean Christians should be allowed to wallow in them and indeed we are told that now that we are a new creation, we must not live according to the rules of this world. Yet, any proferred cookie-cutter solution will only breed legalism. However since no sin is foreign to mankind, there might be something to learn from Baxter’s “A Christian Dictionary”, in which he apparently brings the principles of God’s Word to bear in the lives of people so they conformed to God in every detail of their living. Shall aim to get paws on it.
The Plain cafe
50 Craig Road
Tanjong Pagar Conservation Area
The flat white made from Genovese coffee was excellent – the dark robust roast cocooned nicely in sweet hot milk. Would pass on the melting moments the next time though on account of too much of a flour taste and the scones, being things that need to be eaten very fresh, were a little stale and were accompanied by butter not cream. Enjoyed the combination of flavours of poached eggs on melted cheese & vegemite on sourdough toast (dean’s breakfast).
Real Food Cafe
B1-52/53 The Central
Sadly, my food cravings (if any) are mainly for things people find no joy in, in this instance, unpolished rice, vegetarian steamed dumplings, miso soup.