Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Office of the Holy Ministry in the Life of the Church: A View from the Parish

We continue in A Reader in Pastoral Theology with an article by Roger D. Pittelko, "The Office of the Holy Ministry in the Life of the Church: A View from the Parish."  

Pittelko gives a brief historical survey of views of the ministry.  He observes that historically we have not considered that people engaged in the pastoral ministry are equated with those engaged in other areas of Christian service.  In former days people often referred to people in the ministry as priest, minister, then pastor.  Now, however, we have avoided the term "priest" out of a fear of equating the minister with the Levitical priest who makes sacrifice.  Our avoidance of that term tends to make it difficult for us to see that the minister does in fact lead people in their worship.  

As far as leading people in their worship is concerned, the minister is responsible primarily for serving in Word and Sacraments, doing what he has been divinely ordained to do.  This is the service which the Church needs and to which the Lord has ordained the minister.  Although there may be ministers in different leadership roles, such as bishops, pastors, assistant pastors, etc., all are to be concerned with Word and Sacraments.  That's the divine ministry in a nutshell.

I wonder what would happen if our pastors gave up their committee meetings, their ecumenical prayer breakfasts, even their counseling, and focused on proclaiming God's Law and Gospel, words of absolution, and administering baptism and communion?  I wonder how much more belief we might see among people in the pews when we saw that the pastor really does believe in the sufficiency of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit?  I wonder how much less counseling the pastor would need to do when he focused on wielding the mighty Word of God?  I wonder if we'd find that the public saw the Church shaking up the world then?  May the Lord grant that we have opportunity to see this.

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