Pastor Appreciation (of Each Other) Month
The “powers that be” say that October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Still I hold that every month is Pastor Appreciation Month because the Lord has seen fit to place me into the Preaching Office. He has also seen fit to give me a congregation where I preach and teach. Which reminds me, when was the last time any of us regularly prayed for a pastor who is a Candidate for the Holy Ministry (CRM)? This is the closest we LCMS Lutherans get to purgatory. All kidding aside, there are far too many good men in need of a Call who are in CRM “purgatory.” Pray for these men. The harvest remains plentiful, but the laborers are few.
To the topic! One suggestion I would make for pastor appreciation month is for pastors in our beloved synod (I write as an LCMS pastor) to begin to practice civility among our brothers in office. I am blessed to serve in a circuit where there is tremendous collegiality among the pastors. I count my blessings every day, for there are circuits in the LCMS that make even the most dysfunctional family look like the Cleavers or the Nelsons, to name two 1950s television families. There are brothers who serve in circuits where they are the only pastor whose congregation still uses a hymnal, still practices closed Communion, still, well, you fill in the blank.
My early years as a pastor was filled with hatred of other pastors who were not as “faithful” as me. I could trust no one, not even me. Everyone was suspect, even the most rigorous orthodox Lutheran pastor. You had to prove yourself somehow. It was like a bunch of cavemen battling over a piece of meat. As I’ve grown in years and experience as a pastor, I’ve learned that civility and courtesy go a long way toward resolving disagreement among brother pastors. It’s been a hard lesson to learn, especially for me as I tend to be a strident pessimist.
The first place to begin to practice civility may be in the world of the Internet. Too often, yes, even on Steadfast Lutherans, I have seen pastors shred the Eighth Commandment. Perhaps I have been one of them. No, I know I have been one of them. When you see pastors describe other pastors using ad hominem attacks, this is not the best way to resolve disagreements, let alone foster civility among clergy. The same goes for pastors toward laymen and vice versa. You do not use a public form like Steadfast Lutherans, Facebook, or blogs to call people “jugheads”, “libtards”, or other unfortunate names. Again, I fall under my own preaching. Too often I catch myself destroying a brother pastor’s reputation or, worse, a layman for whom Christ has shed blood to save from sin, death, and hell.
A couple weeks ago it was my pleasure to have lunch with Pastor Mark Schulz, a frequent commenter in this forum. We stand at opposite ends of the spectrum on what may be called Lutheran. Nevertheless, it was a civilized conversation (ask Mark, he will say the same thing) and both of us learned a lot from each other. Would to God that more of these conversations take place in the Missouri Synod. Granted there may be a vocabulary problem understanding basic theological terms, but to talk informally and formally with each other and begin the long process of learning how to speak to each other without spite or anger is a good thing.
If the me of ten years ago saw the me of today, I would have called myself a “compromiser” and a “milksop.” The me of now wants to smack the me of ten years ago. Nothing good comes from name calling. Repent while there is time. Begin the slow process of appreciating one another, for how can there be an attempt at concord in doctrine and practice without an attempt at concord in personalities?
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!… But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!” (Psalm 141:3-4, 8 ESV)
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