Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Pride of Office and Humility of Person

Great care is needed by those who are under-shepherds of God’s flock  to balance pride and humility.  The below, from a paper entitled “Duties of the Pastor: Expectations and Evaluations” recently presented by Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller, addressed that concern in an engaging way.

The vocation of pastor, then, is simple, but this does not mean that it is easy.  The Scriptures warn us of the difficulty.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.  (1 Timothy 3:1)

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.  (James 3:1)

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.  (Hebrews 13:7)
I’ve wondered if the Lord has arranged the work of the pastor to ensure nobody is actually good at it.  Simply considering the way personalities work faces us up to this.  The guy who likes to spend hours concentrating on study of ancient texts normally does not like to stand in front of people and talk.  The guy who likes to sit in meetings and make sure everything is arranged just right normally does not like his evenings interrupted with emergencies.  A pastor is required to be an introvert and an extrovert, creative and disciplined, a good listener and a good speaker and a good writer, a logical thinker with great emotional empathy, holy and relatable.  In other words, no one is good at it.

Wrestling with this difficulty works itself out in a handful of different directions.  There is a pride of office and a humility of person that is often confused.  The pastor who understands rightly the great authority of his office becomes proud of his person, and subsequently receives any compliment or criticism into his person.  On the other hand, there is the pastor that knows his shortcomings and his inability to bear the office with the dignity it requires, and reacts by reducing the office to something more manageable.  Both are wrong.  The Scriptures would call us to a pride of office and humility of person, taking the teaching and work seriously, but not ourselves.

This is why St. Paul’s discussion of sufficiency comes up so often in the discussion of the work of the pastor:
Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

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