DPS: Defensive Pastor Syndrome Part 1
After His resurrection, Christ the Lord appeared to the Apostles saying, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:19-23). Christ Jesus mandated and instituted the Office of the Holy Ministry for the sole purpose of saving sinners from sin, death, and the power of the devil through the forgiveness of sins. He ordained and sent the apostles out to make disciples of all nations by means of baptism, the proclaimed Word, and the Lord’s Supper. Christ did not leave His creation alone, but left the world by giving the Ministry; therefore, He will always be with us unto the End of the Ages. Christ the Lord, in His eternal will, created the Office of the Holy Ministry in order that sinners may be forgiven in the means of grace.
What greater joy can there be in this life. One of the greatest gifts a man can receive is to be chosen and then placed into the Ministry to be a steward of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-20). To be placed into the Office of the Holy Ministry, to be a pastor, is a joyous vocation, not because of the temporal blessings, but because it is the work of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of all who hear and therefore believe. In addition to this, what greater gift can the Lord Jesus give to His Bride, the Church, than a faithful man to be Her pastor. Christ loves His creation in such a way that He makes His location known in the Office of the Holy Ministry. You don’t have to find Jesus. He makes Himself known and gives Himself for you in the sinful hands, lips, and ears of His called and sent servant. You, the sinner, now know where Jesus is and where he is not. Jesus is where His word is preached and the sacraments distributed in accordance with the Gospel. You have comfort knowing that the man proclaiming the Word and distributing the sacraments comes from Christ because it is not his person that proclaims the Word, but the Office into which he has been placed. Dr. Martin Luther, of blessed and holy memory, spoke of the comfort in knowing that it is the Office, not the man, that does the work saying, “Here it stands: NO one should undertake the public exercise of the power to forgive and to retain sins in Christendom unless he is sent and called to this through a definite command. Whoever has no command to preach, to baptize, to absolve, to administer the Sacrament, let him be content and not undertake such an office. However, whoever is called to it and has the mandate should preach the Gospel, should baptize, should loose from sins through the power of Absolution, should impose the ban through the power of the Keys, should rebuke and admonish, etc. Let him proceed with confidence and not be afraid, whatever may befall him on this account” (LW 69:359-360).
Luther encourages the Pastor not to be afraid, not matter what befalls him. Why does Luther say this? Because of passages like: “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:19-22), and “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12), and “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 33:7-9).
Luther encourages the Pastor because of the worry that looms over his head and in his heart. The Pastor is sent to preach God’s Word, to be the prophet sent from God to hand over the goods. He is sent, as was the prophet Isaiah to preach amongst a people of unclean lips with his newly atoned and absolved unclean lips. To proclaim God’s Word to sinful people is a terrifying and stressful vocation because you have the judgment of God on one side and the sinful response of man on the other. To let the Holy Spirit do the work, put the hand to the plow and not worry about the outcome, is impossible for the Old Adam. Just like a farmer worries about the crop, so the pastor troubles his conscience concerning the flock. The only solution to this problem is holy absolution. The Pastor must be forgiven of his unbelief in Christ’s declarations. However, he will again fall into the trap of anxiety and distress because of the activity of the devil in both his life and in the life of the congregation. The Pastor must pray, be absolved, and live in complete reliance on the means of grace that he himself has been called to distribute.
President Matthew Harrison recently produced an Epiphany message for the LCMS. Toward the conclusion of the video he encouraged people to pray for their pastor. He did this because of the attack on the Holy Ministry that the devil currently is leading. This 3 part article is written to address what I call Defensive Pastor Syndrome. The pastor is always on the defensive because he is always being attack by the devil through the mouths of faithful sheep and an unfaithful world. Part 2 will deal with the Syndrome itself and why it happens. Part 3 will conclude with what the Church must be doing to combat this assault of the devil.