Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Stroll Along a Raging River

By David Horn, ThD
Director, The Ockenga Institute

Harsh words for a gentle, country Scottish pastor, but here they are:
The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness.
Amazing words with a surprising sting to them.
Surprising, indeed! I began reading William Still’s book, The Work of the Pastor, with the idea that I would be taking a leisurely stroll along side of a placid Scottish pond and found myself most often knee deep, fighting a raging river. This faithful country preacher who ‘pastured’ in the same small parish at Gilcomston South Church of Scotland for over fifty years packs quite a punch in his understanding of what it means to be a pastor.
To read what Still places at the very center of what it means to be a pastor seems at first obvious. Obvious, until you realize he really means it. He insists, the Word of God fully and exclusively defines the role of the pastor. Not only does it shape the preaching and teaching ministries of a pastor as one would expect, but the simple power of the Word is meant to spill out into the life of a pastor as he or she walks through his or her community, the way he or she goes about the mundane management of church life, the way pastoral care is distributed to the flock. Allow me to have him speak for himself again:
"To be true pastors, your whole life must be spent in knowing the truth of this Word, not only verbally, propositionally, theologically, but religiously, that is, devotionally, morally, in worshipping Him whom it reveals, and in personal obedience to Him whose commands it contains…”
Everything in a pastor’s life should be laced with the Word.
One of the implications of this radical commitment to the Word in ministry is that Still would suggest that many of the ministry tools we have grown to view as important for doing our job as pastors not only are not essential but actually compete with the Word for our attention and the attention of our flock. Unintentionally, perhaps, our over-dependence on church programs has become a cheap substitute for the power of the Word, entertainment most often has become a substitute for fellowship in the Word, and in the case of his words at the beginning of this blog, cheep gimmicks intended to attract unbelievers are more evidence of our lack of confidence in the power of the Word than of our well-intended concerns for the lost.
I recommend you take a stroll along this raging river of a book. It is well worth the risk.

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