Confused Clergy

Kevin Vanhoozer asks:

“What do pastors have to say and do that other people in the helping professions—psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and so forth—are not already doing, and often doing better?” (The Pastor as Public Theologian: 9)

In a quick-fix generation that wants to take a single pill and feel better in the morning, it’s easy to slip into Talk Show mode. I’ve done it myself more times than I want to count (or admit). “Four Simple Ways to Build a Better Marriage.” “Three Sure Steps to Financial Freedom.” Serve lightly sprinkled with some Scripture, and call it a sermon.

Pastor as TheologianPastors and preachers around the world have often gravitated towards “felt need” messages. This is, after all, what people want to hear; not antiquated messages about sin, redemption, obedience, or holiness. I once had a dear mentor describe preaching as “counseling the masses.” But I wonder, is this the clergy’s highest call?

Is it possible that the unique contribution of the pastorate is not Christianized counseling but Kingdom proclamation? The one starts with us; the other starts with Christ. The one starts with human experience; the other addresses the human condition. The one requires my own strength; the other calls me to faith.

Pastoral ministry faces enormous pressures and expectations, and these can distract—even derail—our best intentions. And for some of us, beneath and behind our best efforts to serve Christ and His people, lies some quiet confusion; a hidden crisis of confidence that emerges in silence and solitude. We cannot compete as therapists and we are only moderately adept as managers. What do we have to offer?

Simply the Gospel.

Pastors are theologians, declaring the presence, the purposes, and the plans of God.

Pastors are theologians, caring for communities and curing souls.

Pastors are theologians, affirming the fundamental brokenness of humanity and the power of redemption.

Pastors are theologians, re-telling the story of God—the only story that matters—and placing us in His story (rather than Him in our story).

I certainly need help with my marriage, my parenting, my finances, and my friendships. I’d like to be successful in the workplace and respected in my community. But my pastor, on his or her finest days, lifts my eyes (again and again) to the greater realities—the metanarrative of history—the heavenly Father who loves me, the Son who gives Himself for me, and the Holy Spirit who transforms and guides me as I trust Him unreservedly.

The Gospel is the power of God that brings glory to God.

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12 Responses to Confused Clergy

  1. Judi says:

    You did it again, David. Blew away all the smoke and mirror effect and showed us clearly that at the end of the day (and the beginning, and every minute of…) the only ‘one true thing’ that can really help us is the loving God of eternity who made us. All we can hope to accomplish, no matter our earthly titles or positions, is to be tender roadsigns pointing each other to Him.

    I thank God for all the roadsigns in my life, of which you are one. Be blessed and keep blessing…

    • David Timms says:

      Judi, thanks for the note. You’re quite right that ultimately it’s not what we can do for ourselves but what Christ does in and through us. Blessings as you hold to the :”one true thing.” 🙂

  2. Truda says:

    Amen, David. Many of today’s “pablum” sermons, composed of personal stories with a couple of Bible verses thrown in, are not challenging me or convicting me toward righteousness and holiness.

  3. Janet Sigsworth says:

    Thank you David, your understanding from a Pastor’s perspective is very timely. I truly believe that we are coming to a time when we will either shine or fall, there will be no middle ground. If ever there was a time for Pastors to be grounding their flock in the truths of God – His love, mercy and holiness, now is the time. I also believe the true church is getting tired of the warm and fuzzy messages so often heard. We need meat to feed us and the Spirit to sustain us. God bless you are you seek Him and pass on your insights.

    • David Timms says:

      Janet, it seems that the “middle ground” has been tried and found to be rather lukewarm — neither convicting nor compelling. The pastor-theologian has never been more needed. Pray for this revival. 🙂

  4. Eric Hogue says:


    Great post on a great book, you warm my heart.


    *Eric Hogue* *Chief Development Officer* *WILLIAM JESSUP UNIVERSITY* – Rocklin Campus 2121 University Avenue, Rocklin, CA 95765 P (916) 577-1801 | * * * *

  5. Fanny says:

    David, thanks so much. Some of us in Africa get power cuts and open our mail when we have electricity.I am sure reminded to keep the main thing the main thing. We can have good marriages without God and good everything but God’s love and purpose for humanity left out in our sermons.Thank you and keep up the good writing.

    • David Timms says:

      Fanny, how delightful to hear from you. Praying for you as you continue to shape the next generation of pastors and leaders in Zimbabwe. You have a ministry of eternal significance. Blessings!!

  6. Debbie Heim says:

    Amen David, If our Pastors would do as you said, we just might have a revival. There is nothing better than studying and hearing the Word, verse by verse.

    • David Timms says:

      Debbie, revival almost always begins in the pulpit … and (historically) always in response to prayer and a return to the Word — when people humble themselves and cease being the center of the Story. We could all use a dose of that! 🙂 Blessings.

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