Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Pastoral Approach

Philemon 1:8-11 (ESV)
Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, [9] yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— [10] I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. [11] (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.)

Paul sometimes gets a bad rap as being too hard headed a man to be a pastor. I’ve heard people claim that he was an apostle, and an Evangelist but not a pastor. That just isn’t true. Being an Apostle is certainly different than being a pastor, but the pastoral office stems from this apostolic office, and the apostles were pastors, even pastors of pastors. Not only did Paul give great pastoral advice in three letters that ought to serve as any pastors “pastoral theology,” but he also shows a bit of pastoral know how here.
Pastors by nature of their office have authority. Jesus has bestowed on the pastoral office the authority to forgive and retain sins. Pastors are leaders of the church, like it or not. But there is a way of leading that bolsters authority, and there is a way of leading that abuses authority and ultimately undermines it. As leaders in the church, we are also called to be servants. To go about making demands, and impatiently requiring people to submit to our authority, will ultimately drive the people away, and undermine the authority a pastor has with the people. They aren’t going to listen to you if go on a power trip. You can harp about respect for the office all you want, but if you don’t respect it yourself, then why should they? If you are on a power trip, become an ego maniac etc. you are not respecting the office you hold or taking your pastoral vocation seriously. The “Herr Pastor” attitude is unbecoming of the office.
This is where we can learn something from Paul. He is bold enough in Christ to command Philemon to do what is required, but he doesn’t. There is a better way. He appeals to Philemon in love for his child Onesimus. He approaches Philemon as a fellow brother in Christ. He treats him as such. Oh, there is authority behind what Paul says. But Paul approaches Philemon in a way that shows he genuinely cares for Philemon. He doesn’t approach him with anger, hostility, or holier than thou. There is no I am your pastor, and so you have to give up your slave so he can continue to serve me. This is actually quite amazing. We pastors can learn a lot from this.


Brigitte said...

Someone said that to me the other day, that we'd be shaking in our boots if Paul ever showed up in our midst. That he would be a hard man.

That's a horrible thing to say.

He probably could be exacting, since he was this way with himself.

But,just look at Acts 20, the meeting with the elders from Ephesus and his speech and everyone weeping and having to tear themselves away. I think we'd love him to bits.

Bror Erickson said...

Yes Brigitte I think we would love him to bits. He was a father figure to his churches. He loved them and they loved him. He was exacting like any good father who loves his children is exacting.
People just don't want to hear God's word anymore, so they slander and abuse the messenger, Paul.
The other danger though, is for a pastor to read 1 Corinthians, and begin acting that way with his congregation, before establishing the relationship of trust that Paul had with the Corinthians, and in a manner where the Pastor is more concerned about himself, his own pride, and badge of orthodoxy, and not really genuinely concerned with the salvation of those he is chastizing.