05/16/09 Weekend Grif.Net – What the Congregation can do for their Pastor

05/16/09 Weekend Grif.Net – What the Congregation can do for their Pastor

Floyd Doud Shafer (Christianity Today, March 27, 1961)

There was a time, about three generations ago, when the minister was known
as the parson. Parson, in those days, was not a nickname, but an honorific
title, and it meant The Person. More often than not the parson was the best
educated man in the community and he ranked with the physician and the
pedagogue, and the lawyer in eminence. But our time has seen a complete
switch in this situation. The minister is no longer a parson. The advent of
a highly educated public has put the minister close to the bottom of the
listings in educated persons. Our reaction to this turn of events should
have been a determined and disciplined effort to regain and maintain
superior excellence in the things which pertain to God. Instead, the clergy
retreated in mad scramble behind the breastworks of administrative detail,
ecclesiastical trivia, and community vagrancy. Whenever our conscience
bothered us, we simply ran off to another meeting to make arrangements for
succeeding meetings to flee to. We are no longer parsons, now we are “good
Joes” and in place of providing the Church with her needed “Scholar
teachers” who are equipped to bring God and man together in reasoned
relation, we no find ourselves among those who need to be reached by the
“Scholar Teacher” and wise men of God. What is the resolution of this
ridiculous farce?

Minister of the Word

The answer ought to be obvious. Actually, it is in the nature of a cabala.
Here it is in taunting simplicity: Make him a minister of the Word! But what
does that mean? What could be more esoteric? Very well, we will say it with
more passionate bluntness. Fling him into his office, tear the office sign
from the door and nail on the sign: STUDY. Take him off the mailing list,
lock him up with his books (get him all kinds of books) and his typewriter
and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts, broken hearts, and
the flippant lives of a superficial flock, and the Holy God. Throw him into
the ring to box with God till he learns how short his arms are: engage him
to wrestle with God all the night through. Let him come out only when he is
bruised and beaten into being a blessing. Set a time clock on him that will
imprison him with thought and writing about God for 40 hours a week. Shut
his garrulous mouth forever spouting “remarks” and stop his tongue always
tripping lightly over everything non-essential. Require him to have
something to say before he dare break silence. Bend his knees in the
lonesome valley, fire him from the PTA and cancel his country club
membership: burn his eyes with weary study, wreck his emotional poise with
worry for God, and make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with
God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God.

A Life Aflame

Rip out his telephone, burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets, refuse his
glad hand, and put water in the gas tank of his community buggy. Give him a
Bible and tie him to his pulpit and make him preach the Word of the Living
God. Test him, quiz him and examine him: humiliate him for his ignorance of
things divine, and shame him for his glib comprehension of finances, batting
averages, and political infighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play
psychiatrist, scorn his insipid morality, refuse his supine intelligence,
ignore his broadmindedness which is only flat headedness, and compel him to
be a minister of the Word. If he wants to be gracious, challenge him rather
to be a product of the rough grace of God. If he dotes on being pleasing,
demand that he please God and not man. If he wants to be unctuous, ask him
to make sounds with a tongue on which a Holy Flame has rested. If he wants
to be a manager, insist rather that he be a manikin for God, a being who is
illustrative of the purpose and will of God.

One Thing Needful

Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day: “Sir, we
wish to see Jesus.” When, at long last, he dares assay the pulpit, ask him
if he has a word from God: if he does not, then dismiss him and tell him you
can read the morning paper, digest the television commentaries, think
through the day’s superficial problems, manage the community’s myriad
drives, and bless assorted baked potatoes and green beans ad infinitum
better than he can. Command him not to come back until he has read and
re-read, written and re-written, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn,
and say, “Thus saith the Lord!” Break him across the board of his ill-gotten
popularity, smack him hard with his own prestige, corner him with questions
about God, and cover him with demands for celestial wisdom, and give him no
escape until he is backed against the wall of the Word: then sit down before
him and listen to the only word he has left: God’s Word. Let him be totally
ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to
walk around it, camp on it, suffer with it, and come at last to speak it
backwards and forwards until all he says about it rings with the truth of
eternity. Ask him to produce living credentials that he has been and is true
father in his own home before you allow him license to play father to all
and sundry. Demand to be shown that his love is deep, strong, and secure
among those nearest and dearest to him before he is given contract to share
the superfluity of his affability with all sorts and conditions of persons.
Examine his manse whether it be a seminary of faith, hope, learning, and
love or a closet of fretting, doubt, dogmatism, and temper; if it be the
latter, the quarantine him in it for praying, crying, and conversion, and
then let him go forth converted, to convert.

Sign and Symbol

Mold him relentlessly into a man forever bowed but never cowed before the
unconcealed truth which he has labored to reveal, and let him hang flung
against the destiny of almighty God; let his soul be stripped bare before
the onrushing purposes of God, and let him be lost, doomed, and done that
his God alone be all in all. Let him, in himself, be sign and symbol that
everything human is lost, that Grace comes through loss; and make him the
illustration that Grace alone is amazing, sufficient, and redemptive. Let
him be transparent to God’s grace, God himself. And when he is burned out by
the flaming Word that coursed through him, when he is consumed at last by
the fiery Grace blazing through him, and when he who was privileged to
translate the truth of God to man is finally translated from earth to
heaven, then bear him away gently, blow a muted trumpet and lay him down
softly, place a two-edged sword on his coffin and raise a tune triumphant,
for he was a brave soldier of the Word and e’er he died he had become
spokesman of his God.

Dr. Bob Griffin,
“Jesus knows me, this I love”