We need pastors not pansies — Guest Article by Vanessa Rasanen

Pastor-HeadlessThe 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-God-will-hate-you. No. It was Christ’s Gospel for us and the fact that we could not hear it and receive it enough.

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-and-you-believe-them-just-because, but as True Doctrine.

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

 


Comments

We need pastors not pansies — Guest Article by Vanessa Rasanen — 25 Comments

  1. “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.

    Vanessa,

    Very well done!

    Randy

  2. Hmmm, lovingly, “I don’t get it?” All pastors are this, based on our ordination and what we have affirmed at those rites.

    Yes, all those outside the LCMS are prone to the wolves, once within the fold, all is well. Of course, then free will of the person gets in the way.

    Now if you mean we are not going out, calling out the Romanists, the ELCAers, the Muslims, Mormans, etc with more vigor, OK, I get it.

  3. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #3 Lovingly, I don’t get your post. Ordination is not some magic potion that makes the person receiving it suddenly perfect in knowledge, wisdom, and strength. In fact, I believe there are, even today, persons being ordained who do not believe in the BOC, even though they pledge their lives to defend it. Are you saying that being a member of the LCMS makes you saved?

    Vanessa – that was a great article. Thank you for sharing it. It takes a lot of courage as a woman to post on here, but to write an article is fearless! 🙂

  4. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #3
    Hmmm, lovingly, “I don’t get it?” All pastors are this, based on our ordination and what we have affirmed at those rites.

    I so hope you’re being facetious ( no one love humor more than myself!)
    Having suffered through one very married pastor, who had affairs with three parishioners, another who literally ran the church into such financial ruin that the church had to close it’s doors, and a third who dropped confession/absolution from the service and has “semi-open communion”, I think a good dose of straighten up and fly right is in order.

    Sincerely,
    Just an everyday laywomen who’d love to see the Lutheran church return to it’s roots.

  5. Excellent!

    “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.”

    Stand guard does not mean capitulate. It does not mean embrace. It does not mean spit out the bones. Stand guard! There is a reason the wolves cloak themselves in sheep’s clothing.

    Thank you, Vanessa.

  6. @slalom5 #6
    Slalom and Helen, I do agree, bad pastors are bad pastors and have NO BUSINESS being in the office that tends the flock.

    And no, my life is not sheltered, I have been in the junk, seen the junk, held back from the junk, been in some situations that make me sick; but we keep on, and when we tend the flock, we LOVE THEM even though all “heck” may be breaking loose under the covers. We live up to the ordination and all the promises we made before God and His Church.

    Yes, Satan loves to MESS IT UP, and twist things up, and shudder to say, “even fellow pastors” are subverted by Satan and His minions.

    So back to what I said, there is a difference between a BAD PASTOR and a PANSEY.

    Hmmm, are you saying we must be more boisterous and call out the error, the bad pastors that should walk away and try some other business, etc.?

    Set me straight please….still don’t get it. Is a bad pastor a pansey?

  7. @LadyM #4
    Hmmm, two points to answer you:

    01) Ordination IS special, hands are laid on and we receive the Holy Spirit, etc.; that is what our polity believes and confesses. Are we then set to a higher standard? YOU BET, God is watching. And yes, we do sin, yet we must be careful if what we do causes a “little one” to error. Look up some Dr. Scaer on ordination, I think he has some articles; we hold ordination VERY special.

    02) BJSers will get mad, but it does not take the LCMS to be saved or the Book of Concord; it takes the WORD of God and it begins by the Holy Spirit, etc. BUT you already know all that.

    But what LCMS does have is the best teaching, best construction, best proclamation of God’s Word around. And yes, the Book of Concord is a wonderful, no essential guide through Scripture, etc.

    And with that, I will not be a pansey:

    a. ELCA – historical criticism, etc.; they walk a path that is really making God mad I do believe, basically ignoring God’s Holy Word in many places.

    b. Roman Catholics – Works righteous belief, etc.; nuff said.

    c. Islam – no worship of God as we know.

    d. Mormon – just twisted.

    Should I go on? Could you be non-LCMS and pick up a Bible and be saved by the Word of God? Of course, but the LCMS is your best bet in today’s hostile world.

    OK, toss out the lazy and bad pastors.

  8. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #9
    I suppose I’m confused.
    Simply put…if a pastor does ignore the “new, faddish or relevant” teachings, as Vanessa has stated in the article above, then that pastor is leaving the congregation to fend for it’s self. He must/should be vigilant to clarify and defend his flock against them.

    I’ll use myself as an example to further clarify:
    I’m born and raised Lutheran – baptized and catechized – attended church/SS regularly. So when changes occurred in my local church, I questioned their validity. For instance – when a Beth Moore or Rick Warren class shows up on the church schedule, I was certainly surprised that it was allowed to proceed. Therefore, I could only assume that LCMS and it’s affiliates were OK with it. Otherwise how could this have taken place?

    When we spent a good part of the yearly church calendar promoting the CGM, I searched out more information only to find that it was promoted by LCMS. I had to assumed it had been carefully studied and approved. When attending contemporary services where every song presented spoke of how “I” feel, what “I” think, and what “my” thoughts were about God, I broke rank and headed to another Lutheran church, only to find the same there as well. I attended a third Lutheran church and I LITERALLY had to check the bulletin because I was so confounded by the service that I thought I’d made a mistake and ended up at a Baptist/Pentecostal.
    We once had a well defined reputation… I doubt this is still true.

  9. @slalom5 #11
    Hmmmm, now I understand a bit. I will try and explain what I see:

    01) What Vanessa writes is good, but ALL PASTORS know it. I saw it as “YadaYada”, I know that already. Now do all Pastors follow their duties so to speak. OK, that is a problem. Bad Pastors, we others should call them out. Sad that they exist, in all forms.

    02) Is their fads attacking us from the outside. Oh Yes…but a Pastor does remind the flock of right and wrong, and then, you the flock can take it as you like. We teach and preach and administer the Sacraments per our duty that the Bible has commanded.

    Now how much calling out can we do, at what places, etc. That IS a challenge. You would get mad a me if all my time was spent calling out outside error. Remember, my primary duties are to the flock, the sick, dying, etc.

    03) Back to a comment by Vanessa, about daydreaming pastors, etc. Yes, they exist and should look deep inside and take another job. There, busting them…

    04) Practice between Churches. Yes, fractured, but because we are in a polity that does not enforce, this occurs. BUT, it could be a blessing.

    Let’s say I exist in a Circuit of Churches that do not appear Lutheran. I can do the proper thing, and they cannot force me. This is good. Sad. But good.

  10. @slalom5 #11
    Hmmm, one more point.

    I am a worker/priest to a small congregation. Talk about calling out error, I do it almost every day in the work place, etc. We are living in hostile times. But at the same time that the Law is dished out, the sweet Gospel is offered so “some”, yes “some” may take heed of God and turn to the only Salvation that exists.

    At that point, I love to flee back to the Church, my flock that supports me and prays for me, as I pray for them.

    At that point, Faith (my Church) is a fortress against Satan, because we are fed and sustained by our God.

  11. “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-and-you-believe-them-just-because, but as True Doctrine.”

    @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #9
    Is a bad pastor a pansy?

    It seemed to me that Vanessa was saying that men who soft pedaled any part of sin and salvation to keep from making his audience uncomfortable was the “pansy”. By not being firm about the truth he leaves the door wide open for error, whether it comes in the form of Beth Moore and Rick Warren, or PLI, CGM, TCN inside the LCMS… which are worse, really!

    There are “bad pastors” who don’t teach what they should,
    and bad pastors who do nothing about error.
    When these are in “high places” it takes a brave pastor to object.
    We don’t have enough brave pastors!

    We don’t have enough laity who will back the brave ones either!

  12. @helen #14
    I agree, yet the Law is an art to deliver rightly at all times. We have guidelines, and we have the ability to apply in “tempered dosage.”

    Example: (a person is not attending often, missed a bunch of weeks).

    I have not seen you at Church for some 6 weeks, “how dare you, do you despise the Sacrament and Jesus?” Oh yes, I have seen this from so called confessional men.

    or

    I have not seen you, “all well?” It is good to be in the Word, come back; let’s discuss.

  13. Pr. Prentice, I think you are confusing how to treat false teachers/bad pastors/heterodoxy with how to treat one’s sheep. I do not see one thing wrong with what Vanessa wrote and I do not understand, or agree if I do understand, some of your arguments. Laymen and women are crying out for strong leadership in orthodox theology and practice. If we don’t get it, you can bet we will start looking elsewhere for someone willing to put his life on the line for his sheep. I think on this note, I will bow out. You and I are not going to come to a consensus.

  14. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #15

    Pastor Prentice,

    This isn’t a complicated concept. Shepherds who stand by on a “purple hill” and watch their sheep get devoured by ravenous wolves are not good shepherds. They are pansies!

    You also stated, “… what LCMS does have is the best teaching, best construction, best proclamation of God’s Word around.”

    My response is this: Yes, but all of that is going down the drain as we stand by and watch movements like “FiveTwo” take root. Can’t you see that? Again, this is not a complicated theological debate. This is pretty clear. “FiveTwo” and others have gone off the rails and the COP/SP are letting it happen. In some cases the DPs are promoting this baloney. Didn’t you watch the “FiveTwo” video where a lay woman said she and her mom attend “Crosspoint” for the music? No mention of God’s Word or the Sacraments at all.

  15. @Randy #17
    Hi Randy,
    I mentioned this on one of the other threads about 5/2. Prof. David Schmitt was one of the speakers at the wiki14 convocation last week. He is a prof. at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. It appears that 5/2 is being encouraged by at least one prof. from the seminary in St. Louis. I’m sure it comes under the umbrella of academic freedom.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  16. @Diane #18

    I missed that, Diane. So, I did a quick search and see that Prof. Schmitt kicked off the introduction of “The Story” series by Mega Church pastors, Max Lucado and Randy Frazee, at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Rolla, MO.

    Makes sense. It’s the “Sacramental Entrepreneur’s” “New & Improved FORMULA OF CONCORD” = Teach’em false doctrine & practices in your congregation, Teach’em false doctrine & practices at the Concordias, Teach’em false doctrine & practices at Seminary, promote/support their false doctrine & practices after ordination, elect their false doctrine & practices to the position of DPs, take over the synod with false doctrine & practices.

  17. @helen #14
    We don’t have enough brave pastors!

    Perhaps “cowards” would have been a better term to use than “pansy”, but then I wouldn’t have had the nice alliteration in the title. 😉

    All joking aside, what @Randy #17 says is spot on the intent of this piece.

  18. @Vanessa #20

    You are soooooo correct, Vanessa! Yet, for the courageous pastors that we do have, I tip my hat and support you completely! What you do is no less than amazing. You stand in the face of this insanity. Thank you.

  19. @Randy #19
    Interesting that Max Lucado’s name came up. Last year he was interviewed by Prof. Schmitt at Concordia Seminary and the interview appeared on their Concordia Theology site. One of the comments after the video was critical of the POV of Lucado. The person asked where Word and Sacrament comes into the picture when one is suffering and would Luther have written such a book.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  20. @Randy #17
    Hmmm, I will close on this:

    01) I see the point of the article, I do; people want what is proper and good, and all I can say, come to Faith, you will get proper teaching and preaching, good order in the Sacraments tended. As you will in “many fellow Churches”, not all Lutheran Churches (sad to say).

    02) My flock is OK, well tended (always looking to do better, never satisfied truly), but it is hard to call out others in bad practice, etc.

    Why? Because it is a balancing act. Tend the sheep, spread the Gospel to community we serve, call out error; a tough balance. Toss in the fact we need to love our own families which way often gets neglected (and that IS sinful in our vocation if a husband and father).

    A little story:

    A fellow Church was using a lay-licensed person to do Word and Sacrament. I called them out and suggested, “why not call a man, plenty around, even look to CRM.” You are big enough. Well, as I lovingly pursued this a bit, fellow “confessional” men called me out as sinning against my brother. Caused a big commotion. Well, after that, you kind of retreat from doing those things.

    So you sort of retreat into your flock and make sure you tend to them the best you can, let the wolves attack those outside the flock; try to pull the sheep within, but if they jump into the pen of Faith, “look out.” Besides using all the gifts of God to defend, I am still a 1st degree brown belt in Shotokan Karate.

  21. @Vanessa #20
    Hmmm, OK, a challenge to you. I think I fit everything you ask for in a pastor (OK, this sounds conceited), but we are who we are, we are dutiful slaves to Christ, tending to His flock best we can.

    Now please, perhaps in another article, give some solid bullet points to what you want and “how we can be less pansie-ish.” I think I fit your mold as a brave pastor, albeit, even a brave smart man knows when to make a tactical retreat to fight another day. Now if this is being a coward, I would disagree.

  22. I think the article does what it set out to do.
    I think the message is clear.
    I thankfully take it to heart, as I am encouraged by it.

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