Friday, August 17, 2012

It Isn't the Church's Job to be Popular.

Luke 6:24-26 (ESV)
"But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
[25] "Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
"Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. [26] "Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” Bo Giertz ends his commentary on this section saying it isn’t the church’s task to be popular, that is hard to hear.
I mean, Paul lays out in his qualifications of a pastor, that he be thought well of, even by those outside the church. Pastors go to wits end trying to please people. It becomes a trap for some. Sometimes I try to avoid compliments. Somehow, just never knew how to accept them. It is a disease. On the flip side of that is a narcissistic craving, that at one and the same time says, I don’t care what you think, and in the next second is silently screaming for approval. So we seek approval where we can find it.
Pastors, will seek approval from like minded pastors. This can be quite dangerous. They get consolation from pastors with the same weaknesses, suffering the same problems. And in a twisted way, in the wake of a ruined congregation, they get the popularity they crave from pastors as blind as they are patting them on the back for remaining true to the confessions, being a theologian of the cross, going down with the ship, making a brave stand. Yes, I look askance more often than not at the Saber of Boldness awards. For one, Paul’s theology which we in the Lutheran Church have deemed to call “the theology of the cross” did not result in failed churches. Paul knew that love is patient and kind, and that a Pastor’s love for his sheep could be no different. Of course your people are screwed up, you should have known that from the resemblance they have to you. Of course they are sinners. And no, they didn’t spend $40,000 to go to seminary, so they won’t necessarily know that joining the lodge is a bad thing. They won’t see any difference between that and you going to the bar, or belonging to that insider group of confessional pastors. There is more to being a theologian of the cross than being a failure. In fact it could just be your insatiable desire to “succeed”, your need to be known as the one who stands fast, to be thought of as the confessional guy, that has led you down the path of failure. There is an odd sort of pietism accompanying talk of “the theology of the cross” and being a confessional Lutheran in our synod today, where the Book of Concord is referenced as a book of bylaws, with no concern for what it is actually saying. Woe to you.
Of course it is just as infectious the other way. When you have a church full of self-aggrandizement, that changes its doctrine to meet every whim of the people in a desire to be popular. This too is a mistake. Yes a pastor must be well thought of by those outside. That isn’t quite the same as being popular. It is more along the lines of being respected. How does one say this in a politically correct manner. What we have here is the difference between a self-righteous prude, and a slut. You have the girl who doesn’t go to the pool because she might be seen wearing a swimsuit, and some guy might actually pay her a compliment. She looks down on all the other girls, who perhaps have even kissed her boyfriend, before he even gave her a promise ring. And then you have the slut, who can be just as self-righteous mind you, but who finds the easy way to popularity. The boys all like her, but they don’t respect her. In the end she will want that respect. Popularity is fleeting. But it is what the church goes after. We do it with liberal politics and we do it with conservative politics. And rarely does anyone care to read God’s word for what it says. No we aren’t here to be popular. We are to be faithful, that requires forgiveness.
Finally one has to realize that one is a failure, that they need the forgiveness of sins as much as their people, more so, pastors are held to a higher standard, yet we are the same weak men that we preach to. Jesus Christ died for pastors too, their failures and our successes. The church can't count success as the world does. What the world praises will always fall short. It is successful to preach the gospel, to administer the sacraments according to Christ's institution.


Anonymous said...

Interesting line of thought,Pastor.

You have a valid point, but it is also good to remember that every pastor is a sinful man who will fail his congregation, God, and himself sometimes.

Being a pastor looks like an impossible balancing act where a fall would be fatal. Perhaps the solution to a pastor who is failing due to over the top confessionalism at the expense of Christian love could be more gospel and love from his brother pastors, coupled with gentle admonition.

With that said, you're right. It is easy to fall into a sick, self-righteous pride while trying to be a theologian of the cross, thereby turning the effort itself into a twisted form of the theology of glory. Satan will worm his way into anything he can to get our eyes off our Savior and onto ourselves.

Thanks for the thought provoking post! I enjoy this blog.

- Joyce

Bror Erickson said...

Joyce, We all fail as pastors. That is the point.

Unknown said...

Our beloved, late pastor said every once in a while that people put their pastors up on a pedistal.(Yes, I guess we do.)

He explained how he is just a sinner as us. He served us well for 33 years-couselling my children and I while they grew up, marrying Glenn and I... but he could irritate people with his Slovak steadfastness, and seeming rigidity to Liturgy and, as a Army Reserve Chaplain Colonel, too, his time was strained ...but in the end. Hundreds of people lined up outside the church for the viewing.

He often said he was like Peter, gruff and ruff. But what was the difference he made in our lives? He was there when I awoke from surgery...

I read somewhere that years ago, if you can see Jesus in a person...
and we did with him. We could see him steadfast to the Word, serve the Lord, and in his prayers for us. We say his mistakes and forgave him.
We heard how he was up all night and called to the base. He comforted the parents of a solder who committed suicide...

If come to learn that, yes, Pastors are not perfect but that they are called, Servants of the Word. They have my RESPECT as they go forward serving God and carrying the Gospel everywhere.

They fail and are not perfect, but so do we. God put them with our church. And now, as we have just called a new pastor, and he comes in the fall, I won't put him on a pedistal, but I will give thanks to God that He heard our prayers.

He sends the best man for our church and we need to support him, forgive him, pray for him, and love him.