27 May, 2010

We Are Not Professionals, But Care Takers of Souls

Professionalism is dangerous in the ministry. Those of us who have been entrusted with the care of souls need to think of ourselves, not as professionals with degrees on the wall, but as shepherds and care-takers. We have been entrusted with God's people, yet some shepherds destroy God's vineyard- the Church.

The Prophet Jeremiah spoke to this in chapter 12 of his book, "Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it a desolation; desolate, it mourns to me... They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns; they have tired themselves out but profit nothing. They shall be ashamed of their harvests because of the fierce anger of the Lord.

I was reminded of this twice this week.

The first instance was that I heard about a wedding this past weekend where the pianist told the pastor that she really enjoyed the sermon. During the discussion it came out that the pianist was estranged from the church and said that during her catechism class as a teen she had a lot of questions. Eventually her pastor told her that she was not allowed to ask questions anymore. When the pastor at the wedding heard this, he said, "You can ask me any questions that you want, whenever you have them." The young lady began to weep.

The harm done to her soul at the hands of a merely professional minister was great.

The other instance was while re-reading a short story by John Updike called "Pigeon Feathers". In this short story the main character, David, was questioning how he can know that he will continue to exist after he is dead. The pastor in this story gave a typical liberal "soul sleep" answer which was not satisfactory to David. The conversation went back and forth with David not being satisfied with the pastor's unbiblical answers. The pastor got angry with David and did not want to further engage with this conversation.

David felt shame and the lines of communication between the pastor and David were now closed. Mere professionalism harmed his soul.

Updike responds to this event marvelously. He writes, "In the minister's silence the shame that should have been his crept over David: the burden and fever of being a fraud was placed upon him, who was innocent, and it seemed, he knew, a confession of this guilt that on the way out he was unable to face [his pastor's] stirring gaze, though he felt it probing the side of his head." John Updike, Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories, 134.

Brothers, those of us who labor in the ministry of the Word need to keep our own hearts in check. We are not professionals who have the privilege of clocking out at the end of our shift. We have been called to labor and care for the people of God. And sometimes that takes some extra time. Sometimes that takes some extra patience. Sometimes that takes some extra grace.

Plead with the Lord Jesus Christ that he would renew your commitment to ministering to his Church. Ask for the grace to be a shepherd to the flock for which Christ spilled his blood. Christ was not a professional. Neither are we. The ministry is about souls.

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