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Thursday, April 21, 2005

What Is a Pastor?

There has been some recent discussion about the nature of the pastoral office around here. It's all good. Another local LCMS pastor, Rev. Don Matzat, asked on his radio show if your pastor is a shepherd or a cowboy. He went on to explain that sometimes pastors lead out in front of the flock. And other times, they get behind and push the sheep like a cowboy. Just because the word "pastor" literally means shepherd doesn't mean that some of us aren't really cowboys at heart.

The shepherd leads in such a way that the sheep hear his voice and want to follow. Why? Because they know he will take them to quiet waters and green grass. The cowboy, on the other hand, has to shout and shove and lash the herd to make it go where he wants it to. I see this really as a distinction between Law and Gospel.

The faithful pastor uses both Law and Gospel. But we motivate Christians to follow Christ not primarily with a whip, not with threats and curses. The sheep might go where they are directed as a result of bullying, but they will hate you for it. The better way - Christ's way - is to lead by offering us His blessing. It's like this. Do you follow Christ because you fear His wrath if you do otherwise? Or do you follow Him out of love, because He calls you gently and offers you good things?

Jesus told Peter to feed the flock. One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis who said in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer something like: "Our Lord's charge to Peter was to feed my sheep, not experiment on my rats or teach my dogs new tricks." I find that my brother clergy sometimes forget that Word and Sacrament are the means God has given to grow and build the church. We feel like we must improve on what the church has always known and innovate. Ultimately, it fails us.

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Preachrboy said...

This church and ministry thing is something we need to talk more about in the LCMS.

I have been thinking lately, that the Pastor is really a Prophet, Priest, and King - functioning in all of these roles - as an undershepherd of the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King, Christ. What do you think? Did I make this up? Or did I learn it somewhere?

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

In what sense is the pastor King?

Preachrboy said...

That was the one I struggled with the most. But here are two thoughts. A king leads (much like the cowboy you were referencing before). A king also protects - as the OT kings would even go into battle with their armies. It was a king's responsibility to guard the peace. In a sense, I think of this aspect as closest to the term "pastor" - you know the rod and staff thing... Servant leadership (I'm totally with Walther on not Lording the office over the people here!)

But the whole three-fold thing - it derives from Christ.

TKls2myhrt said...

You inspired a post!

TKls2myhrt said...

I meant to add that I was really blessed by your post. It helped me in a moment of doubt about parenting my teens - a often-difficult, but also rewarding journey. I need to remember that the shepherd parent is usually more effective than the cowboy parent!

Theresa K.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Theresa K., I'm glad it was food for thought. Parenting is a lot like pastoring. The Law serves a very important and God-given role. In the home, the law as curb and guide are particularly relevant.

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