I am re-reading the brilliant book by Dave Hansen ‘The Art of Pastoring’ and the same day I came across this wonderful article by Mandy Smith re-printed below.
There is a dynamic in being a pastor that is quite incredible. We are neither managers nor mechanics; farmers nor chefs; social workers nor nurses. And I am grateful for those who do these things. Yet pastoring with integrity is most certainly not “running the church” (God forbid), but it is about being squeezed by Heaven’s Hands whilst living and loving in this pressurised mixed up world, often perfectly encapsulated by individual congregations around the world. Too many people bemoan “the state of the church” myself included – but take one minute to think about it….how can it be anything but, this side of Glory?
My own church is no exception (and they are entirely innocent of anything this blog produces ;-), and whilst the list below is an accurate reflection of pastoral ministry, it ebbs and flows with varying degrees of weight and emphasis throughout the points on the list in a pastor’s ministry.
I am totally confident in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to break rocks to peices and re-make old, sin-tired hearts anew. And that process by definition is hard, tough, gritty, life-changing and will divide people. That is why P. T. Forsyth is right to say that the Gospel, when proclaimed faithfully, will both attract and repel its hearers. The Gospel is a dividing thing, and so it should come as no surprise that churches are places, under Gospel proclamation, that wrestle, Jacob-like, with the Angel of the Lord, until a new person is formed. The church is not a happy social club where we are meant to just “get on” and “be nice”, not a place where things should be smoothed over into a kind of bland conforming mediocrity, but a gathering of sinners learning what it means to be the New Humanity created in, through and by, the atoning and redemptive work of Christ. The church should be a lot rougher, not smoother. And that’s how grace works: Grace doesn’t work or isn’t needed in a wonderful, open, tolerant, all-loving, all-embracing community (this is how some people wish the church was) – how can it? To exercise grace, there must be un-grace and disgrace. To exercise patience, there must be impatience and all manner of urgencies. To exercise true agape love, there must be self-love and no-love, etc, etc.
Sinful men and women all of us. And some of us sinners go on under the call of God to be pastors. And it is these pastors who face what I think are astonishing complexities in everyday life, simply because we are going about the business of the Kingdom of God – and that is terrifying in its own right. Jesus builds his church, and this sometimes (often?) despite the church, despite me.