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.
Pastors 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.