Et Cetera,  Note Cards

Shepherds: Certain Duties and Limitations

Fun Fact: Pastor means “shepherd.” Do shepherds poll their sheep before making them to lie down in green pastures? Conversely, should sheep have to beg their shepherd to feed them something besides pablum?

In his Examination of the Council of Trent, Martin Chemnitz gives a clear outline of the duties and limitations of the pastoral office. I am going to go out on a limb and say that some of the pastoral duties Chemnitz lists, if executed today, would get a majority of pastors in the United States “fired.” It is sobering to think of how little and how much we expect from pastors. We chastise them for being the voice of Christ when they preach Law and Gospel instead of “relevant” things, and blame them for not having the power of the Holy Ghost to change hearts. We expect them to run a three-ring circus and operate like a corporate bureaucrat, and threaten their livelihoods whenever they dare to discipline us.

Spoiler: Chemnitz doesn’t include “Grow the church numerically” or “Devise a Mission Statement” or “Craft worship experiences based on the perceived tastes of the majority of middle-aged white suburbanites” or “Write a new liturgy every week” or “Let the Worship Team run the service” or “Keep Holy Communion safe, special, and rare” or “Respond cheerfully and obediently to sociological surveys conducted by District Officials” or “Regularly convince the Church Council and Elder Board to let him do his job.”

“This ministry does indeed have power, divinely bestowed (2 Cor. 10:4-6; 13:2-4), but circumscribed with certain duties and limitations, namely, to preach the Word of God, teach the erring, reprove those who sin, admonish the dilatory, comfort the troubled, strengthen the weak, resist those who speak against the truth, reproach and condemn false teaching, censure evil customs, dispense the divinely instituted sacraments, remit and retain sins, be an example to the flock, pray for the church privately and lead the church in public prayers, be in charge of care for the poor, publicly excommunicate the stubborn and again receive those who repent and reconcile them with the church, appoint pastors to the church according to the instruction of Paul, with consent of the church institute rites that serve the ministry and do not militate against the Word of God nor burden consciences but serve good order, dignity, decorum, tranquillity, edification, etc” (Examen II, emphasis mine).

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