Pastors, Preachers, Prophets and Popularity

God has made us social beings.  We are made for relationships.  We were created to have a relationship with God.  God saw that it was not good for us to be alone and so the human relational bond was born.

However, early in creation of relationship, human failure became a barrier to the divine/human relationship and to the human/human relationship.  Blame, guilt, deception, rebellion, and omission are all components of the breakdown of the original relationships.  The result was the Fall and the Curse.

God’s purpose since the Fall has been restoration.  God’s plan has been to allow humanity to work with God in the pursuit of restoration.  God sent prophets to speak.  Prophets were not popular people.  Why, because the fact of the Fall lead to the corruption of the heart in which relationships lie.  This corruption loves darkness.  Prophets were sent to bring light, revelation, and light shined into darkness can produce pain, especially if one has become accustomed to the dark.

God incarnate, Jesus created the church.  In the church God still used prophets to speak Truth.  Along with the office of prophet God also created the offices of pastor/preacher/minister.  Jesus chooses individuals to hold these offices in the church.  The Holy Spirit brings the divine call to individuals to occupy the office of clergy, elder or deacon.  The church recognizes the call of God and the person called is set aside for ministry by ordination.  To occupy an office puts one in a position to make decisions.  Decisions lead to conflict of wills.  Conflicts of wills leads to difficulty in relationships.  Difficulties in relationships can lead to attitudes of alienation and antagonism.  Living in the face of alienation and antagonism is not popular.

No emotionally, spiritually healthy person enjoys being disliked.  No emotionally, spiritually healthy person enjoys alienation or antagonism.  When you care about people and desire only the best for them, being disliked, facing alienation and/or antagonism can be very painful.  Still, the duties of the office requires one to bear the pain.  In the Old Testament, Jeremiah, Hosea, and others were very aware of this.  In the New Testament, Paul, Peter and others also understood that until Jesus returns this pain will remain.  This is the cross the preacher must bear.  This is the darkness the pastor must endure.  This is the reality the prophet must expect.  We are not better than our Lord and Jesus told us this is exactly what we could expect.  We are not called to be popular, we are called to proclaim the truth, to guide and equip, and to faithful to the calling.

Do ministers make mistakes?  Of course they do, but God does not.  This is the pastor’s confidence.  This is the preacher’s path to a positive perspective even when alienation and antagonism arise.  It is the only way we can stay the course.  Being liked feels good.  Being popular has its moments.  Trusting in the truth and being faithful to the calling and office, though hard, lifts one to a place better than feeling good and more joyful than being popular.  It brings us into the pleasure of God.

Rot and Waste

I recently attended a class on doctrine.  It was perhaps the most interesting class I had ever had the opportunity of participating in concerning this subject.  The instructor/facilitator was a brilliant  individual who had many, many years of experience as a practicing theologian/ethicist to his credit as well as being a informed scholar.   There was much to be gleamed from the class!

During the class, on of the students referred to our human state as being one “full of rot and waste”.  There was laughter at this statement at first but then this statement became a key part of the discussion for the next few days.  I don’t think there is a more profound way of verbally capturing the human dilemma than the term “full of rot and waste”.

We live in the time of the history of death.  Death is the separation from this present existence and the metaphor for the most horrible reality of our being separated from God.  Death is about “rot and waste”.  It is in the life of Jesus we find hope in the midst of “rot and waste”.  It is in a relation with Jesus we find life that transcends death.  Life that moves us beyond history of death into the realm of His-story (Jesus) of life.

Still, we must deal with our own “rot and waste”.  If ignored, it just grows in our lives and souls.  We feed it with the consumption of this world.  We spread it with our ignorance and arrogance.  We think we can swim in it without consequence but find we do not swim but sink.  We grab whatever or whoever we can and would pull that which is in our grasp down with us as would any drowning person.  Thanks be to God that God is not pulled down, but seeks to lift us up.

Our “rot and waste” can only be countered by Jesus’s love, life, and hope.  It is in the baptism of the Spirit that we find the fire to cauterize our rot and in the life of the servant that our waste can be recycled  and made into good by God.  It is in the practice of prayer, the reliance on the Scripture, and the development of disciplines that we are able to develop in our dependence upon the Spirit and our desire to be the servants God has called us to be.

Is it easy?  No, it is not!  We will fall and fail time and time again.   However, our God does not give up on us.  Through God’s grace and mercy we can return to the quest.  Our goal is perfection.  Our goal is to see our rot give way to righteousness and our waste given over to willingness.  It is always a struggle as we journey through our time in the history of death, but we have a Savior who will help us succeed.

Yes, we are full of rot and waste, but we also have divine help and hope.