The following was submitted by Vanessa Rasanen, who runs Bible, Beer, and Babies blog.
I became a Christian nearly a decade ago, attending church regularly with my husband. Okay. Mostly regularly. We spent many of those years giving into the world’s priorities, skipping church whenever we were out of town or sick or woke up late or simply didn’t feel like it. And when my husband was gone for deployment or drill? Yeah. I hated going alone, so I often wouldn’t go.
But that changed.
Our move following flight school saw us settling our family in a new community and seeking membership at an LCMS church. For the first time we met a pastor who stood firm and spoke boldly and bluntly. He made it quite clear church attendance was important and regular studying of God’s Word was essential. If he worried about turning us off with these words, it didn’t show. And funny thing. His unwavering on this point and his absolute dedication to our faith and salvation was refreshing. You see, it wasn’t about law law law, you-must-come-to-church-or-
For the first time we had the Lutheran confessions held up, showing us clearly how we had been so inwardly focused that we had completely missed the point of church. We went from seeing church as something good to do (though optional, of course) to understanding it is God giving Himself to us in Word and Sacrament. Finally we had a pastor who – at the risk of being unpopular and turning us off – taught us that God’s Word outweighed anything the world shouted or our Old Adam whispered or the devil nudged. And it went far beyond our church attendance record. For the first time we had the Lutheran confessions taught not as a these-are-equal-to-all-others-
Now, we hadn’t come to the LCMS broken by blatant false teaching, prosperity gospel or seeker-driven preaching as many I know have. But still we found refuge and comfort in the unapologetic, non-wishy-washy and firm teaching of this Pure Doctrine in the Lutheran confessions by our pastor. Shouldn’t that be a comfort and desire of every Christian?
Should, sure. Doesn’t mean it is. After all, our wants rarely, if ever, match up with needs when it comes to God and His Word. We have itchy ears. Deep down we want our pastor to make us happy and tell us things like “nah, it’s fine if you don’t want to come to church because you’re hungover” or “you’re right, it IS all about you!” We want the shepherd who lets us make the rules, who follows our meanderings through the fields and who doesn’t make us do anything we don’t want to. Right?
Pastors, when the wolves come – and they do, often – that is not the shepherd we need. We need the shepherd who stands firm, who won’t daydream and wander off leaving us to fend for ourselves. We need the shepherd ready to fight for us even when the wolf comes dressed as a fellow shepherd, because our very life depends on it.
When false teaching creeps up – and it does, often – we need a pastor who stands firm, who won’t give in to the shiny “new”, “relevant” fad, deluding himself into thinking it’s better for us, because it makes him “new” and “relevant”. We need a pastor who won’t leave us behind to fend for ourselves. We need a pastor who won’t back down to pressure, who values the lives of those in his care to the point that he would risk all to ensure we receive the True Doctrine of Christ which he vowed to teach. We need a pastor who won’t stand by and watch his fellow clergy be led astray by the prowling lions, who will do everything possible to bring them back to the Truth and keep others steadfast in the faith.
To put it bluntly, we need a pastor, not a pansy.
A pastor’s job isn’t to be our buddy or our pal. Though he can certainly be a friend, it is not the duty of his office. Pastors are the caretakers of our souls. Pastors are entrusted to teach us God’s Word and to deliver His Sacraments so that we may have eternal life in Christ Jesus. As such we need you to not only do so faithfully, but to also stand guard against those who would attempt to steal us away from Christ — especially when it comes from the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
No, it’s not fun to engage in conflict. It’s not easy to confront the wolves. It’s not popular to risk the facade of unity in the church by calling for adherence to True Doctrine. You will be challenged. You will find resistance. You will not find an easy path before you. But do not falter, do not waver, and do not waffle. Stand firm in our confessions, in God’s Word, and in your calling.
We are depending on you.
For what shall I say? How shall I complain? I am still living, writing, preaching, and lecturing daily; [and] yet there are found such spiteful men, not only among the adversaries, but also false brethren that profess to be on our side, as dare to cite my writings and doctrine directly against myself, and let me look on and listen, although they know well that I teach otherwise, and as wish to adorn their venom with my labor, and under my name to [deceive and] mislead the poor people. [Good God!] Alas! what first will happen when I am dead?
Indeed, I ought to reply to everything while I am still living. But, again, how can I alone stop all the mouths of the devil? especially of those (as they all are poisoned) who will not hear or notice what we write, but solely exercise themselves with all diligence how they may most shamefully pervert and corrupt our word in every letter. These I let the devil answer, or at last Gods wrath, as they deserve. I often think of the good Gerson, who doubts whether anything good should be [written and] published. If it is not done, many souls are neglected who could be delivered; but if it is done, the devil is there with malignant, villainous tongues without number which envenom and pervert everything, so that nevertheless the fruit [the usefulness of the writings] is prevented. Yet what they gain thereby is manifest. For while they have lied so shamefully against us and by means of lies wished to retain the people, God has constantly advanced His work, and been making their following ever smaller and ours greater, and by their lies has caused and still causes them to be brought to shame.
(Smalclad Articles preface 4-7)
A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice; holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
– 1 Peter 5:1-4