“Turning to the Church”, #7 in Spiritual Headship by Pr. Mark H. Hein

(This is the next post in our regular columnSpiritual Headship in the Church and Home” Pastor Hein’s articles on BJS can be found here.)

After six installments dealing with spiritual headship in the home, we now turn to the subject of the same in the church. And in a very fitting way this brings us full circle, back to the first two articles in this series and especially Article # 2 entitled “Jesus is Lord.”

These three words certainly sum up spiritual headship in the church. At this point, I could just say “Amen” and end it here. Jesus is Lord. He is the head of the church… period! And yet, the church’s sovereign head, Christ the King, has given authority to His church and called men in the church to lead and guide it in His Word, in His will and in His ways… all to His glory.

Who are these men? Some we know as pastors… the shepherds of God’s flock. Men who have been called and ordained to be stewards of the mysteries of God… to preach the Word, God’s Word, and administer the Sacraments according to our Lord’s bidding. These men also exercise the Office of the Keys on behalf of the church, joyfully declaring to the penitent the full and complete forgiveness of sins that is ours in Christ Jesus, but also sharing with the unrepentant that their sins are still bound to them as long as they do not repent.

Pastors are called to be “watchmen” … to be ever vigilant in looking out for anyone and anything that would seek to do harm to the flock entrusted to their care… to look out for that which would cause commotion and instill panic and fear among the sheep… scatter and divide them… or kill them spiritually.

Of course, a watchman is of no benefit if he cannot recognize danger. And this requires him to be very astute and perceptive. Danger is rarely obvious. It is, rather, subtle and well disguised, oftentimes clothed in what appears to be harmless and even beneficial.

And too, looking out for danger is one thing, acting upon it is another. A watchman does no good if in standing his post he only spots an intruder. He must sound the alarm and do whatever he can to prevent that which is dangerous from even getting close to God’s people.

In all of these things, ministers of the Word do not act on their own or with their own authority. They have none. It is all by the authority vested in them, given to them, by the Lord of the Church, our Savior, Christ Jesus. The pastoral office is a sacred calling… a sacred responsibility… a sacred trust. And thanks be to God that there are many faithful pastors who see it just that way and who humbly seek to carry out their divine vocation to the best of their ability with true love, mercy, patience and longsuffering, as well as with great intensity, tenacity and fervor given to them by God the Holy Spirit. We know and take great comfort that the flock is precious to the Lord our God. Christ the Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep and yet there are those who are serving as under-shepherds who are derelict in their duty, putting the sheep in great spiritual danger and peril. I am not saying that they do this deliberately or consciously, but the effect is still the same.

There are those who have the title of “pastor” but do not act as true shepherds, opting instead to take on such roles as chief executive officers, performers, production managers and marketing directors. And, I might add, dressing the part. I ought to know, I once was “a suit” when I served in hospital administration. Interestingly enough, in that role, I like to think that I was making a difference, but the truth of the matter is, I was not involved in the day-to-day caring of the sick and injured – those who were hurting in body, soul and mind.

There are so-called pastors out there who are not zealous for the Lord. Not really… because to be the same means being zealous for God’s Word and His immutable will and ways. It means being zealous for the one true Christian faith in both doctrine and practice.

There are those pastors who are not passionate about seeing to the needs of God’s people. Not really… because what matters most to them are numbers… or keeping things on an “even keel”… to not “rock the boat” or “stir the pot” even though it is called for and many times desperately needed. For them, it would mean too much work, aggravation, suffering and maybe a downturn in their popularity.

In my very first year of ministry, I found myself in the position of having to put two of my members under Christian discipline. To make it even more “interesting,” they were both officers of the congregation and the preceding pastor, who retired, did little or nothing about the situation. I had no doubt about what I needed to do, but the way to go about it was something I wanted to discuss with some seasoned brothers in the ministry. Thankfully, I received some valuable assistance from one of our seminary professors at Concordia, Fort Wayne. This included words of caution, care and encouragement. I then called my circuit counselor who was also a retired pastor living in the area. I told him the situation, what I planned to do and then asked for his advice. There was silence on the other end and then he said “Mark, Mark, I was a pastor for some 34 years (or whatever the number) and in all that time, I never had to put anyone under Christian discipline.” Wow. How does that work? I honestly do not remember anything he said after that. I was too much in shock!

The words of the Apostle Paul to a fellow pastor in Christ, Timothy, keep ringing in my ears. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:2-5

With God’s Word in mind, we will end the topic for now. Just so you know where I am heading from here… more needs to be said about pastors and spiritual headship in the church. From there, we will move on to the role of the laity and especially laymen in regard to the topic at hand. Until then, may the Lord continue to bless you and keep you in His care.

In Christ,
The Rev. Mark H. Hein
Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
Lockport, Illinois

About Pastor Mark Hein

Articles can be found here The Rev. Mark Hein is pastor of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lockport Illinois, and also fire chaplain for the Lockport Township Fire Protection District. This year, he will celebrate twenty years in the ministry in addition to previously serving ten years in hospital administration. St. Paul's, Lockport, hosts the monthly meetings of the Northern Illinois Confessional Lutherans (NICL) for their ongoing study of the Lutheran Confessions. St. Paul's has a very active chapter of the Brothers of John the Steadfast. Pastor Hein hopes to work with the women of his congregation to establish the first chapter of the Society of Katy Luther (BJS sister organization) possibly to be launched during the 2012 Festival of the Reformation.


“Turning to the Church”, #7 in Spiritual Headship by Pr. Mark H. Hein — 7 Comments

  1. Thank you Pastor Hein for this article. When the 8th commandment or a belief that offense is unChristian takes root, where does the church turn? Your experience sounds heart breaking, as when you turned to brothers in the ministry, they were of little value. Thank you for sharing the 2 Timothy passage and making us think about it relevance today.

  2. Perry, thanks! In this and subsequent articles, I simply want to put forth the importance of spiritual headship in the church. The lack of the same… the poor quality of the same has seriously affected the church and the precious sheep and lambs who look to it for help, healing, comfort, guidance and strength.

  3. Sad to say that when some pastors take their work seriously, congregations end up acting like the circuit counselor and don’t want to take any action. Does that reflect on the congregation’s attitude toward sin?

    And what of those pastors that take the stand to discipline? Are they driven out of that congregation? Sadly, yes if they continue to push for discipline that is probably the outcome and where we are in our Synod. I wonder Pr. Hein how the congregation responded to you (I know congregations will respond differently because they are filled with different people).

    Do we need more discipline or less discipline in our congregations? It’s the pastor who points this out and sounds the alarm and the congregation then either carries on the alarm and does the work or turns off the alarm and tells everyone to go home that it was a false alarm.

  4. Kurt, it is true that some congregations will not support their pastors in carrying out that which God’s Word calls for and is done with the best interests of erring individuals. More than reflecting on the congregations “attitude” toward sin, it reflects upon the state of their catechetical instruction and acceptance of our doctrine.

    Although there are certainly many horror stories regarding the pain and suffering afflicted upon pastors (not by the erring individuals they are trying to discipline, but by the supposedly faithful members of their flock) it does not change at all what a pastor is called to do… what he is called to carry out.

    In regard to the situation I shared, it ended the same way as the vast majority of Christian discipline situations in which I have been involved. The men simply left the congregation (and in this case, they both left the state) thus ending our attempts to reach out to these precious souls.

    In answer to the question as to whether we need more or less discipline in our congregations, we simply need discipline – period… true discipline that is in keeping with God’s Word and is being carried out lovingly, patiently and consistently.

  5. Amen. God help those called to give both the Law and the Gospel, and those who need to hear it (including me)! All have sinned except the One who saves us all.

  6. To many Pastors are focused on trying to please everyone. This is something that can’t be done. I think this is one reason Pastors don’t want to use discipline.

  7. I think that is part of it Michael. It would be wonderful to be liked by ALL my parishioners at any given time, but it isn’t going to happen. As Scripture points out, sheep are apt to stray… to go their own way. And amazingly, they always do it at the most in opportune time. It is the pastor’s role (but not his solely) to try and bring these precious sheep back into the fold… back into God’s Word and His ways. From both the parishioner and pastor’s point of view, calling someone on their errors is never going to be pleasant or pleasing. But it has to be done. There are certainly ways to make the process potentially as painless and positive as possible, but it is still not fun. I have never come into my study at church in the morning and said “Yipee, skipee… I get to confront Parishioner Schmidt today! (my apologlies to all of the Schmidts out there).

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