Supporting your Pastor

October 9th, 2013 Post by

For Pastor Appreciation Month, we are reposting this article on Supporting your Pastor.

 

600455_priest_5Have you ever taken someone for granted? As sinners we all have. We take our spouses, parents, children, coworkers, and neighbor for granted on a daily basis.  It’s a sinful trait we can’t get rid of, our self-centeredness. Have you ever taken your pastor for granted? Have you supported him the way you should? Have you supported him outside of his service to you as a pastor? Have you gotten to know the man who proclaims forgiveness to you and your family in the stead and by the command of Christ, the man called to preach the Word of God and administers the sacraments? Supporting your pastor isn’t only about paying his salary; it’s about supporting and loving him in his vocation as your pastor.

Your pastor, is your PASTOR.

To help support your pastor, you first need to understand what your pastor has been called to do in your church. Simply put, the role of your pastor is to preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments. Now there are plenty of times when he does more than that. He may design your church’s website or help with the church’s budget. These aren’t examples of pastoral duties. When you pastor goes above and beyond word and sacrament ministry, he is acting out of love for his neighbor.

Your pastor should have a solid understanding of the scriptures and The Lutheran Confessions, to which he subscribes to at his ordination. With respect and love you should be able to talk to him about anything. You should feel comfortable to address any concerns you may have about your church’s holding to the Word of God and The Lutheran Confessions. Along with the confession of the church, you should be able to confess your sins in private confession. While that may be uncomfortable, your pastor wants to help you with specific sins that trouble you by absolving them. He also wants you to hear the Word of God by attending the divine service. He wants your ears to be open to the scriptures and to receive the sacraments.  He will always be your pastor, for the things he was called to do.

Your pastor, the man.

Getting to know your pastor as a person can be difficult. Pastors can be intimidating and many are quiet. Believe it or not, they are human. They don’t spend all their time reading theology in their study. You know that study, the one with about a million books and pictures of Luther and Jesus on the wall. They have hobbies, families, and interests outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They may enjoy beer, cars, or even watching horrible football teams. Your pastor can even be a friend outside of his ministry, but we must be careful to not blur the line between his vocation of pastor and friend. When considering the man your pastor is, we are reminded of the man he is descendant from, Adam.

Your pastor, the sinner.

If we are going to talk about the human side of your pastor, we have to talk about his sin. Yes, your pastor is a sinner. He stands with you and confesses his sins in every divine service. At times laymen, including myself, put their pastors on a pedestal of righteousness that no man can ever achieve. Pastors often turn to other pastors to confess their sins, which is appropriate as those pastors can absolve their sins. This should not stop layman from making themselves available to their pastors if they need to talk. Pastors have problems, concerns and anxiety like everyone else. We’re all sinners. Our pastors are included in that “we”.

Attacks on your pastor.

Pastors are constantly under attack from the devil, the world, and their own sinful nature. The devil understands the vocation of your pastor. The devil doesn’t want your pastor to preach the word of God or administer the sacraments. The devil will tempt your pastor to try new things in the divine service which take away from the proclamation of the gospel. He will tempt your pastor think to if he can just do this or that, then the congregation will grow. The world will tempt your pastor to worry about numbers and souls saved. The world says your pastor must be active in the community, friendly, and not ruffle any feathers. The world will quote random bible verses to criticize your pastor. All of this piles on the pastor.  We must stand together with our pastors against the devil, the world, and our sinful natures.  We must stand together and confess our sins and confess Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

Jesus Christ, for your pastor.

We will continue to fail our pastors, but Jesus Christ will never fail him.  Jesus Christ knows how to support your pastor. The Word of God supports your pastor. The sacraments support your pastor just as they support us all while we bear our own crosses in this life. Jesus Christ took our sin, lack of love and support for our pastors to the cross.  All of our sins are washed clean with the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. His support is perfect, sinless, and everlasting. With Jesus our support is now perfect, sinless, and everlasting.


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  1. jb
    October 9th, 2013 at 21:47 | #1

    Nathan –

    Simply put . . .

    Thank you..

    Pax tecum – jb

  2. Pastor Bruce Timm
    October 10th, 2013 at 08:28 | #2

    Nathan,
    As your pastor I thank you for your support and friendship, thanks for this well written article (again) and finally, thanks for the beer.

    Pastor Timm

  3. John Rixe
    October 10th, 2013 at 10:28 | #3

    Here’s a shout-out of appreciation to the BJS monitors – Mr Fisher, Pr Rossow, and Pr Scheer.  It’s not an easy job, and the quality and civility of comments have improved a lot lately. 

  4. Nathan Redman
    October 10th, 2013 at 18:45 | #4

    Lutherans don’t drink beer, do they? :-)

  5. October 24th, 2013 at 04:03 | #5

    Supporting your pastor would be a lot easier for some folks if the LCMS seminaries started requiring that their graduates and faculty actually be Lutherans. By this I mean thinking the Lutheran Confessions are actually correct.

    When phrases like “cooperate and graduate” are thrown around with glee by seminarians. When men are being ordained who HATE the Lutheran church. When LCMS churches have pastors who use Bible Study as a time to teach how the Lutheran Confessions are flawed, to push a secular political agenda, to promote infant communion, and to make people feel like crap for being Lutherans. Well, all that makes it a little hard to support your pastor.

    And if you bite your tongue, suck it up, and do your best to support your pastor anyway, you will be granted the gift of being asked to leave the church when it becomes clear that you are more trouble than you’re worth. When it becomes clear that you aren’t going to join the cult. And by “cult” I mean the growing ranks of Confessional Lutheran clergy (and their supporters) who believe the definition of “Confessional Lutheran” is Lutherans who wish they were Eastern Orthodox and who believe in libertarian politics more than the Lutheran Confessions.

  6. Jais H. Tinglund
    October 24th, 2013 at 10:23 | #6

    @Lance Brown #5
    What you describe is wrong!
    And I really think you should seek out a congregation whose pastor adheres to the Lutheran faith, so that you can readily support him, and who will be ready to acknowledge the wrong that has been done to you, and willing to help you your bitterness and frustration before the face of Christ and work through it. I think that would be a good thing for you.
    And a faithful Pastor would probably appreciate your support; he may himself be under a lot of pressure from other parishioners, who are working to force him to abandon his obedience to God, either by forcing him into being less faithful in his preaching and practices- perhaps with the backing of the District President or other Pastors, or both – or by trying to harass him into resigning from the ministry entrusted to Him by God, because they have already given up on changing him, or they never did believe that a such attempt should be made, because they do not believe that a person be given the chance to change before being punished, and they may have received confirmation from the District President or from other Pastors, or both, that this is a good and Christian attitude …
    In some congregations and in some Districts that is how things are. And even where they are not, a faithful Pastor could still use your support – there will be other reasons why he would need support …

  7. October 28th, 2013 at 09:45 | #7

    There was a time that I looked down on the attitude of some who just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible. They wanted to be forgiven, drop a dollar in the plate, get the bread and wine, and then GO. Everything else was a waste of time. Now, I totally understand.

    Support your pastor. But only if he is the right kind of pastor. Which means it is up to me to figure out what the Scriptures and Confessions say about everything (closed communion, sanctification, creation, the meaning of the Gospel, what the proper subscription to the Confessions is and just how correct or incorrect are they, and everything else that Lutherans disagree about). I have to determine that for myself. Can’t trust the clergy, because they all disagree with each other (aren’t the sheep supposed to trust the shepherd?). So I have to find a congregation and a pastor that agree with me (or am I supposed to ignore doctrine and just find a fancy chapel with high church liturgy?) . And in much of this country that means finding a congregation so far from where you live that you don’t know anyone there, don’t see them during the week, and may not fit in ethnically or politically (which seems to be the real basis for unity in most places).

    And since most of the people in most of the congregations are there because of family, ethnicity, tradition, and politics, even if you manage to find such a parish, when the pastor moves on to a better congregation as he advances in his career path, who knows what you’ll get next. So what’s the point? Other than helping to pay for the upkeep of pretty buildings?

    If there actually was such a thing as the Lutheran Church, or even the LCMS, then maybe there would be a point. What actually exists is various factions of clergy with radically different ideas about what Christianity is, all competing with each other. And that’s putting the best construction on it. In some cases it seems that beliefs have nothing to do with it at all. Just money, power, and influence. And then the overwhelming bulk of the laity don’t know or care much about this. As stated earlier, they care about ethnicity, tradition, family, and politics. That’s what defines Lutheranism for them. So why hassle some guy and pay him to be my friend?

    This is why people (especially younger people who don’t care as much about ethnicity and tradition and who don’t live their whole life in the same place) give so little, only show up a few times a year, don’t care about denominations, and make up their own religions.

  8. Jais H. Tinglund
    October 28th, 2013 at 11:04 | #8

    @Lance Brown #7
    No one has suggested that you “have to find a congregation and a pastor that agree” with you; rather, I encouraged you to seek out a congregation whose Pastor is faithful to the Lutheran faith.
    And since you have already set up the premise that you, as opposed to pretty much everybody else in the LCMS, know what it is to be Lutheran, I am puzzled by what seems like a complaint: “that it is up to me to figure out what the Scriptures and Confessions say about everything (closed communion, sanctification, creation, the meaning of the Gospel, what the proper subscription to the Confessions is and just how correct or incorrect are they, and everything else that Lutherans disagree about)”.
    At any rate, the need for Christians to be sufficiently familiar with the faith to distinguish false teachers from faithful ones is not a recent development in the LCMS; it is taught in Holy Scripture itself (Matthew 7:15; Galatians 1:8; 2 John 10).
    The issues, by the way, you bring up as things Lutherans disagree about, are *not* things Lutherans disagree about; they are things Lutherans disagree with non-Lutherans about.

    Nor has anyone in any way suggested that you are “supposed to ignore doctrine and just find a fancy chapel with high church liturgy”. I don’t know where that would come from.

    Although I can see how some aspects of the life of the LCMS could justify the description as “various factions of clergy with radically different ideas about what Christianity is, all competing with each other”, I also have a hard time seeing that “that’s putting the best construction on it” – I can see better constructions, and several of them.

    Speaking of constructions, I am not aware of men being ordained who “HATE the Lutheran Church” (which is not to say that there could not be some of those). What I am aware of are some who are struggling to find their place and position *vis-a-vis* some elements of the Lutheran faith. I am aware of some who are struggling with personal grudges and resentful attitudes, and perhaps not struggling quite as hard as they should be. O yes, and I am aware of some who still manage to be amazingly ignorant and oblivious to what Lutheran faith is, and Biblical teaching. Add there are some who believe that our Church should teach differently than she does. But that is not the same.

    Nor have I ever met Pastors who “believe the definition of “Confessional Lutheran” is Lutherans who wish they were Eastern Orthodox”. I know of Pastors who are attracted to elements in Eastern Orthodox teaching and church life, even some who are tempted and struggling in that regard; I know of some whom I could suspect are flirting with such ideas mostly to make themselves interesting; but that, again, is not the same thing.

    Of course, in the end, as you indicate yourself, it all comes down to trust (“aren’t the sheep supposed to trust the shepherd?”). And since you seem to already have made the firm and final choice that you will never trust a faithful Pastor, and that is there will be some people who do not agree with him – well, although I have trouble following the logic in that (sheep should never trust a shepherd because there is such a thing as wolves?), I can indeed see how that would make it somewhat complicated for you to find a way to work through your resentment before the face of Christ, and maintain your Lutheran identity – if that is what you want.
    And that is a shame. For I do believe that you need help. I sense a great degree of hurt behind your hatred. Obviously you are on a path that will take you noplace good. And from what I have learned from Holy Scripture, you are worth the while.

  9. October 28th, 2013 at 22:03 | #9

    Let me acknowledge where you have a valid point. You say, “I know of Pastors who are attracted to elements in Eastern Orthodox teaching and church life, even some who are tempted and struggling in that regard; I know of some whom I could suspect are flirting with such ideas mostly to make themselves interesting; but that, again, is not the same thing.” Fine. I think this is essentially just a nicer way of saying what I said. But OK. I concede.

    I apologize for being inarticulate and not making my case well. Let me try again. What I’m trying to get at is this: If I (and not just me, but anyone) am supposed to “seek out a congregation whose Pastor is faithful to the Lutheran faith”, wouldn’t that require me to first know what that means? I’m not trying to be clever or tricky. I think this is pretty straight-forward. In order to choose the triangle instead of the square or the circle, you need to know the difference. Right? So that means that I have to know everything myself, first, and then I can determine who is correct. What am I missing?

    I’m trying to show that if you really were (as a layman) picking a church based on them being faithful to proper doctrine and practice, you would have to be the one who determines what that means for yourself. You couldn’t look to some other authority, because there are several and they all disagree with each other. And this is why most of us (I won’t claim everyone) either end up picking the building we like best, or the one that is closest, or the one where we fit in ethnically or otherwise, or the one with the liturgy or music or personalities that appeal to us. And why so many ignore most of the teaching (except for the parts we agree with and find useful). I really hope my point is clear.

    Perhaps you are coming at this from the point of view of a clergyman and just can’t understand what it’s like.

    You claim that Lutherans don’t disagree about “closed communion, sanctification, creation, the meaning of the Gospel, what the proper subscription to the Confessions is and just how correct or incorrect are they” ??? Seriously? The posts on this very site. Right here on BJS, would seem to suggest otherwise. Not only do all sorts of people who use the label ‘Lutheran’ disagree about those things, but there is disagreement within the LCMS about such things. I have both first and second-hand knowledge of this. I really can’t believe you would deny this.

    My reference to ignoring doctrine and just finding a fancy chapel with high church liturgy was not meant to suggest that you had said this. My point is that several ordained clergy in the LCMS have suggested exactly this. I have heard it said, publicly and privately. I would be very surprised if you hadn’t heard it as well. I was offering it as the alternative choice to first figuring out for oneself what the correct teaching is and then finding people who agree with you.

  10. Jais H. Tinglund
    October 28th, 2013 at 23:43 | #10

    @Lance Brown #9
    Lance Brown :
    I think this is essentially just a nicer way of saying what I said.
    My reply:
    No. It is something completely different.

    Lance Brown :
    If I (and not just me, but anyone) am supposed to “seek out a congregation whose Pastor is faithful to the Lutheran faith”, wouldn’t that require me to first know what that means? […] So that means that I have to know everything myself, first, and then I can determine who is correct. What am I missing?

    My reply:
    No, you do not have to know everything; but you do have to know *something*.
    And again, what you are missing is that the need for Christians to be sufficiently familiar with the faith to distinguish false teachers from faithful ones is not a recent development limited to the LCMS; it is taught in Holy Scripture itself (Matthew 7:15; Galatians 1:8; 2 John 10). One might even say that it is given with the reality that true doctrine and false both exist.

    Lance Brown :
    Perhaps you are coming at this from the point of view of a clergyman and just can’t understand what it’s like.
    My reply:
    It seems like you have a rather unrealistic perception of how easy life is for a clergyman; and how little each and every one of is capable of understanding ….

    Lance Brown:
    You claim that Lutherans don’t disagree about “closed communion, sanctification, creation, the meaning of the Gospel, what the proper subscription to the Confessions is and just how correct or incorrect are they” ??? Seriously?
    My reply:
    Yes, seriously!
    Those who hold non-Lutheran beliefs are not Lutheran. It is as simple as that. Not all sorts of people who use the label ‘Lutheran’ are Lutheran, nor all within the LCMS.
    I can’t believe you “really can’t” believe this, as you write. Particularly not in light of the fact that you in your opening statement refer to as a fact that “requiring that their graduates and faculty actually be Lutherans” is something the seminaries are not doing and have not been doing heretofore.
    So, yes, seriously!

    And just as a friendly observation which I think could be helpful to you: there is a certain contradiction in on the one hand pleading ignorance and claiming that you should be protected by “shepherds” from having to make judgements regarding the faith and choices regarding your life of faith – and on the other hand declaring such authoritative judgements in so patronising and derisive a tone, with a such obvious implicit claim to omniscience. The two attitudes and images do not really go well together. I would suggest that you make a choice.

  11. October 29th, 2013 at 11:57 | #11

    I’ll finish with this and then you can have the last word. I don’t want to end up in a flame war.

    You say, “No, you do not have to know everything; but you do have to know *something*.”

    This statement appeals to me. But it seems to suggest that the laity shouldn’t be concerned with every single little doctrinal issue. That some things are more important than others. I would be willing to accept this if there was agreement on what the more important things are. My, admittedly angry and derisive, suggestion that “the LCMS seminaries started requiring that their graduates and faculty actually be Lutherans. By this I mean thinking the Lutheran Confessions are actually correct” was meant to suggest that it would be nice if there were something (like the Confessions) that everyone could agree on. This would give some comfort and assurance. But there is not agreement on what the Confessions really mean on various points nor on the proper subscription to or authority of the Confessions.

    Let me say clearly that it is probably true that all this would bother me less if I wasn’t so burdened by my own sins and didn’t struggle so much with this life. I wouldn’t deny that. But when you really are looking for something to trust in, it is incredibly disheartening to find that what is supposedly the faith once for all delivered to the saints, is so different from parish to parish and pastor to pastor.

    In other words, figuring out which religion (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism) isn’t enough. Figuring out which denomination (Agnlican, Baptist, Lutheran, etc.) isn’t enough. Figuring out which church body (LCMS, WELS, ELCA, NALC) isn’t enough. So even at the point where you think you’ve found the right one and you’re trying to struggle with your own sins and unbelief and unresolved questions, you have to deal with the reality that you can’t trust the clergy of your own narrow little church to agree with each other. So who are you supposed to listen to??

    You say, “The two attitudes and images do not really go well together. I would suggest that you make a choice.”

    What I’m trying to show is that neither choice is good enough. If I adopt the position of embracing the notion of being one of the sheep, then I’m asking to be protected from having to make judgements regarding the faith and choices regarding the life of faith. If I adopt the position of judging all teaching for myself, then I’m arrogant, don’t respect the pastoral office, and I am unteachable.

    I’m trying to point out that all the messages I have been given over the years (and not just me) are incredibly contradictory. Be sheep. But not too sheepish. Be hearers of the Word rather than critics. But don’t forget to critically judge what you hear. Every pastor wants you to follow what he says and not follow the pastors who disagree with him. It’s maddening. I’m trying to show that it is impossible to actually follow all this. And it is my assertion that this is why most people end up ignoring most of it.

    The final word is yours.

  12. Jais H. Tinglund
    October 29th, 2013 at 12:50 | #12

    @Lance Brown #11
    I really like this last posting of yours. It confirms to me what I stated earlier, that you are worth the while – which would, of course, also be true, in a theological sense, even if you had responded like a complete ass. Be that as it may; I think you will catch my drift …
    You deserve a response, but I am slightly pressed for time at the moment; I shall get back to you later, though …

  13. Jais H. Tinglund
    October 29th, 2013 at 17:49 | #13

    @Lance Brown #11
    I’m back.
    No, it is not that “the laity shouldn’t be concerned with every single little doctrinal issue” – well, I suppose there could be some “little” issues that might not necessarily be worth the while; although I am not sure that such issues would merit the designation “doctrinal”. Be that as it may.

    All Christians, whether clergy or laity, should study and know the full counsel of God, in so far as the capabilities of the individual reach. And there is no way around it. You must make the judgement as to what is the truth of God, and who teaches and preaches it, and who does not – whom you can trust, and whom you cannot.

    I agree with you that some of the disagreements within the LCMS do indeed reflect that Synod has failed as a Synod (Christians “walking together’). It is my impression that this is a problem that the current leadership is working on, which is long overdue.
    I would like you to give room for the possibility, however, that other disagreements simply reflect the fact that *nobody* knows *everything*. We are fallible. We misunderstand. We see only in part, and dimly, as in a mirror. And we forget what we already knew. And we struggle with thoughts that come upon us, and we have to work them through, and to test and try them – Pastors no less than everybody else. It is in this process the conversation among brethren is so important, in that it gives us the opportunity to involve others in our thinking, and have them help us find the way back, when we are on our way to going astray. And that is also why it is so important that our conversation can indeed be *brotherly* – as opposed to a shouting match, where each one is anxious to prove himself better than others and immediately jumps to conclusions and starts spitting out judgements and condemnations, or even worse, caricatures – “you shall reason frankly with your neighbour” (Leviticus 19:17).

    Of course, as you point out, and I think you may have done that already also on a previous tread (does memory fail me here?), Pastors should be careful as to how they go about trying and testing their thoughts. A Pastor should be too aware of his responsibility to mess around with the trust of his congregations, and his congregations’ trust in God; a congregation is not her Pastor’s toy, nor an instrument for him to utilise for his own purposes, projects and personal progress.

    I don’t know if I have moved far away from where you were coming from with this. At any rate, I thank you for having given me the opportunity to think some of this through once again.

    And again, I am sorry, but there is no way around it: you need to familiarise yourself with Holy Scripture and the Confessions to the best of your ability, so that you can make your judgements with a good conscience before God. You need to seek out a congregation in which you recognise the Word and worship of God. And them you should trust those who, as far as you can judge, are faithful, unless they give you reason not to trust. I am afraid that this remains a burden of which neither I nor anyone else can relieve you. For ultimately it all comes down to trusting in God Himself, and His Word.

    Thank you for this ..

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