I have recently been thinking through a book that I recently finished on “Preaching About Conflict in the Local Church” by William H. Willimon.
It is pertinent to me as I review the past nine years of my ministry here in Portland. Some of you are aware that my ministry here will be ending sometime after the first of the year. We are not sure what the future holds, and so we covet your prayers.
Part of my reflection deals with how much of my ministry has been accommodation and how much of it has been prophetic. How much of it has been pastoral (not as much as many would have liked, I realize), but how much has been looking for the long-term good instead of the short-term good-will.
Anyway, I found Willimon’s following words helpful:
As Paul says, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view.” (2 Cor. 5:16) the pastor offers more than healing and sustaining ministry, The pastor must also offer guidance, remembering that pastoral assertiveness is also a means of caring. For too long pastoral care, using the model of psychology, shied away from the idea that the pastors judgment had any part in the helping process. But pastoral indifference can be as destructive as pastor’s overbearing judgments. The history of pastoral care in United States shows the tendency of pastors to adopt the prevalent self-culture of American society with its emphasis on adjustment, self-realization, and the radical personalization of the gospel. The pastor cares, not for isolated individuals, but for the family of God and its health. (p. 53-4)
Walter Brueggemann says, “The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness, and perception of the dominant culture around us.” God’s prophet deliberately evokes in situations a newness that confronts decadent systems of belief & practice. The prophet is more than the “angry young man” or the carping social critic whose alienation from the culture is mirrored in his or her shrill denouncements of society The prophet, in Brueggemann’s opinion, is the poet, the artist who contends with false fields of perception, idolatrous value systems, and arrogant rulers by articulating an imaginative, evocative vision of the faith community. (p. 54)
There is an inevitable distancing of the pastor from the congregation. Every time the pastor stands in the pulpit and preaches, there is a gap that separates pastor from people Some preachers resist this separation, longing to come out of the pulpit and sit in the pew.… The gospel itself sets up a distance between the prophet who bears the word and the people who hear it. Of course, the one who bears the word must also have heard the word. But the gospel is about the gap between where we are and where God would have us be. It can be a lonely enterprise to speak that word.
Luther spoke of the gospel as the “external word,” Many are weary of self-centeredness, a self-centeredness that is too often confirmed in our self-help, psychologically oriented sermons. (p. 61)
Good thoughts. Your reactions to his words?