Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Pastoral No

(from page 283 - Planning and Leading Worship as a Pastoral Task)

"They are willing to say no to a text or narrative or image or song that is inaccurate, simplistic, or sentimental."

At first this line struck me as almost insulting, essentially giving pastors the power of censorship over what is presented to the congregation during the "worship service". As a highly intelligent, well educated Christian I should be able to decide for myself what is theologically "sound". Yet as I type this I realize I am echoing the teachings of the post-modern/Western culture that characterizes my generation. In so much of daily life I am forced to critically evaluate and filter the things I encounter, be it in books, movies, TV or music. As a Christian I should be relieved that there is someone else doing the hard work for me for a small period of time.

Amazingly enough I am called to be this person for those for whom I will be a leader in worship (which is the label we used in my home church). As pastor I am responsible for showing the congregation where the good food is. In the words of Psalm 23 I am to lead them to green fields and quiet waters. Which can only be done if I myself have frequented them often enough to know where they are.

As we are discerning in crafting our pastoral ministries we will teach our congregants to have the same discerning taste with everything they encounter. By introducing them to the depth and richness of Scripture, liturgy and the Christian tradition we will open their tastes to things that are better for them and more satisfying. As pastors it's the difference between throwing happy meals to the kids in the back seat, and inviting them to linger over a home-cooked Thanksgiving (perhaps Eucharist???) dinner.

What that requires is an ability and willingness to say "No". A diet of "cotton-candy gospel" will leave a congregation famished for the Bread of Life. It's easy to give into the screaming demands for junk-food theology, but as leaders it is our responsibility to say, "You can't have any more candy until you eat your veggies". No matter how much they cry or pout. As they mature hopefully they'll learn to eat well of Scripture even when you aren't there to ensure they have a well-balanced diet. It is the difference between discipleship and perpetuating spiritual infants (1st Corinthians 3).

1 comment:

chad said...

I like the "throwing McDonalds back to them"...the tone of the pastor really sets the tone of the worship.