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#32414 Tue Apr 25, 2006 10:14 PM
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Theo Offline OP
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I came across a post which touched on an issue that has arisen in some churches, at this blog:

http://merecomments.typepad.com/merecomments/2006/04/toils_of_the_re.html#comments

I have begun to realize in recent weeks that there are two very different schools of thought on the relationship of pastors to their congregants. Some feel that pastors should make an effort to get to know their people, fellowship with them, and visit them. Others feel that the role of a pastor is to preach and administer the sacraments, and that this is the extent of the role which they should be expected to play in their congregants' lives. (You will see both schools of thought in the comments on that blog post.)

I would be really interested to know what you folks think about this: which school of thought would you fall into on this issue? I am beginning to think there actually may be a denominational divide on this issue, but I have not figured that out for certain.

Theo

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Theo,

I would clearly fall into the first group. My understanding of the role of a "Pastor", which I have stated here before, is that of 1) (under)Shepherd, 2) Elder 3) teacher, all of which come under the rubric of "Servant". IMHO, it is impossible for a man to fulfill any of these "roles" when he is alienated from his congregation. Only by knowing those to whom he desires to minister (serve) can he do so effectively. By way of analogy, how could a man hope to be a good father if he lived apart from is children; not knowing their needs, joys, pain, concerns, etc.? [Linked Image]

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Theo #32416 Tue Apr 25, 2006 11:33 PM
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I would say the pastor most certainly needs to make the effort to know his congregants. He is not merely a speaker and administrator, but a "shepherd" caring for Christ's sheep.


Kyle

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified.
Theo #32417 Wed Apr 26, 2006 12:46 AM
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Dear Theo,

In addition to agreeing with what Pilgrim wrote, I find strong biblical emphasis on pastoral involvement with the flock, especially in:

Quote
1 Thess. 2: 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (ESV)

Not only is it difficult for a non-involved pastor to know the needs of his flock to better serve them, he will also be much less accountable to his flock, which not only makes it more likely for him to fall further into sin than if he were more visible, it also removes him from being a positive example to his flock when bearing up under temptations, trials and persecutions. I will always be grateful for the accessibility of my 2 pastors to our church, because it ornaments their sound preaching and faithful administration of the sacraments. I could get decent preaching online and the sacraments in a mega-church, but I, prone to wander or despair, and it not good my being alone, also need the comforting hand on the shoulder after prayer meeting, the exhortation on the sidewalk in front of the bodega, the raised eyebrow and rebuke when I have been overhead being harsh to my family, the continuing conversation about life events, the borrowing of the jumper cables, the lending of the weed-whacker.

And wonderfully, such involvement tends to be multiplied among the members of the congregation.

Of course having an involved pastor presupposes an upper limit on church membership. For example, making 1 in-depth visit per week to a member household, everyone in a Cheers-sized* church, could be visited about once a year. By contrast, at the same rate, it would take Joel Osteen about 400 years to visit everyone in his church at least once.

Theo, you mentioned there might be a denominational effect on this issue: if it matters, I'm a Congregationalist.

* "You wanna go where everybody knows your name"


In Christ,
Paul S
Theo #32418 Wed Apr 26, 2006 7:06 AM
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I just skimmed the blog, but isn't the divide more toward megachurch vs smaller churches, not denominations. BTW, I agree with the other posters on this.

Would Acts 7 (I think) apply in this discussion where the apostles appointed deacons to serve the needs of the people while they did the teaching?


John Chaney

"having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith . . ." Colossians 2:7
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Theo Offline OP
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Pilgrim, Kyle, Paul S, and John C,

Thanks for your posts, which reinforce my thinking that some people "just don't get it" re this issue--but the four of you certainly do. As you point out, how can a minister serve his flock as the Apostle Paul did without knowing them?

John pointed out that there could be a megachurch vs. small church aspect to this, which Paul S also addressed--and I had not thought about it quite from that standpoint. (The only megachurch I have some familiarity with is a Presbyterian one which has assistant pastors as well as ruling elders and deacons to which a family is assigned for their care.) If a megachurch does not do something like that I could well see this being a problem with them.

I am wondering if there is a denominational divide where the more sacramentally-oriented a church is (and thus the view might be that the chief role of a minister is to offer the sacraments), the greater the possibility might be that ministers might not feel that they have to know the people. If one's chief role is to offer the sacraments, does one have to know the worshippers in order to do that? So I begin to think that the likelihood of this view is greater in Roman Catholic churches and that in Anglican churches it would be more likely in less evangelical churches. Conversely, I would expect the opposite view (that you and I hold) to be more common in Reformed and other evangelical churches.

My personal view, frankly, is that if a man does NOT have the spiritual gifts needed to reach out to his congregants in love, he should not be in the ministry.

Theo

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Paul_S said:
Of course having an involved pastor presupposes an upper limit on church membership. For example, making 1 in-depth visit per week to a member household, everyone in a Cheers-sized* church, could be visited about once a year. By contrast, at the same rate, it would take Joel Osteen about 400 years to visit everyone in his church at least once.

Theo, you mentioned there might be a denominational effect on this issue: if it matters, I'm a Congregationalist.

* "You wanna go where everybody knows your name"

I am sure he is not the only one. There are southern baptist churches with close to 10,000 members it would be hard to vist all of them in one year.

Theo #32421 Fri Apr 28, 2006 1:43 AM
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Dear Theo,

I missed your response earlier.

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I am wondering if there is a denominational divide where the more sacramentally-oriented a church is (and thus the view might be that the chief role of a minister is to offer the sacraments), the greater the possibility might be that ministers might not feel that they have to know the people.

Polity may be an even more fundamental factor than the relative role of the sacraments, with the congregational model affording shepherds more significant contact with the sheep than the episcopal model, in which, as one moves up the hierarchy, each successive "flock" becomes a smaller subset of the leadership, necessarily more distant from the laity. If the priest--or bishop, archbishop, cardinal--has any motivation to "move up the ladder", it could tend to focus his energies on serving his own shepherds rather than his sheep. Since sacerdotal terminology--ie priest--is used, I think, only on the episcopal side, in conjunction with primary emphasis on the sacramental office, your observation about sacramental centrality would tend to hold true as well. I am not knowledgable enough about the presbyterian model to see how it fits in, but I think the general formula often holds:

(meaningful contact between laity and leadership)

is inversely proportional to

(levels of hierarchy) times (ratio of sheep to shepherds)

But then again, maybe I am too overtly prejudiced in favor of small-church congregationalism to be objective!

Quote
My personal view, frankly, is that if a man does NOT have the spiritual gifts needed to reach out to his congregants in love, he should not be in the ministry.

Well said! And those spiritual gifts are not directly correlated with a limited number of personality types. The Touchstone comments placed way too much emphasis on introvert v. extrovert, sanguine v. melancholy. My 2 elders are cut from very different personality cloths, but both are unashamed to speak a word in season, listen to concerns, lend a hand, and graciously receive assistance, and that's what really matters. And along the way, the congregation sees, and imitates them, and the body is edified.

I thought of a couple more glimpses of Paul's attitude:

Quote
2 Corinthians 2:4 I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. (ESV)

Acts 20:18 "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials ... 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house ... 27 I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. ... 31Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. ... 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" 36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship. (ESV)

Acts 28: 30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (ESV)

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (ESV)

In light of this, how can a pastor want to distance himself from his flock?

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Theo said:
Pilgrim, Kyle, Paul S, and John C,
I am wondering if there is a denominational divide where the more sacramentally-oriented a church is (and thus the view might be that the chief role of a minister is to offer the sacraments), the greater the possibility might be that ministers might not feel that they have to know the people. [snip]

I think you've got it right here. Baptists and a great number of other evangelicals call a pastor with great fanfare and support of the church. The whole membership participates. Catholics and some others assign their priests--no one gets a say but the bishop.


Josh
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#32423 Fri Apr 28, 2006 8:04 AM
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Johnnie_Burgess said:
There are southern baptist churches with close to 10,000 members it would be hard to vist all of them in one year.

But SBC churches, especially large ones, don't mind brining on more staff to meet the ministering needs. They also use the Sunday School and Deacons as well. Works pretty good most of the time.

The problem with a very large church is that some pastors just aren't cut out to deal with a huge number of nearly anonymous folks. They have to have that close bond or they don't feel like they're doing it right. I don't know what that says about large church pastors but they definitely have to know how to delegate some sheep or they go nuts.

Now thats just visiting and prayer. I mean, seriously, how do you do the Lord's Supper with ten thousand? Thats a lot o' biscuits.


Josh
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I mean, seriously, how do you do the Lord's Supper with ten thousand? Thats a lot o' biscuits.
It is His supper and He indeed feeds them very well.

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Matthew 14:21 And they that did eat were about five thousand men, besides women and children.


Reformed and Always Reforming,
Theo #32425 Fri Apr 28, 2006 11:49 AM
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Theo said:

I am wondering if there is a denominational divide where the more sacramentally-oriented a church is (and thus the view might be that the chief role of a minister is to offer the sacraments), the greater the possibility might be that ministers might not feel that they have to know the people. If one's chief role is to offer the sacraments, does one have to know the worshippers in order to do that? So I begin to think that the likelihood of this view is greater in Roman Catholic churches and that in Anglican churches it would be more likely in less evangelical churches. Conversely, I would expect the opposite view (that you and I hold) to be more common in Reformed and other evangelical churches.

Yet, the archetypal parish priest is indeed very close to his flock. As one moves up the heirarchical ladder, perhaps, the bishops and archbishops become less and less close to the people.

I think it may have more to do with size than anything else. The larger a particular church gets, the harder it becomes for the pastor to know all of his flock. This also relates to the episcopal polity—the higher up in the heirarchy, the larger the flock to which one is responsible.

This is part of why a plurality of elders is so important, I think.


Kyle

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CovenantInBlood said:
This is part of why a plurality of elders is so important, I think.
Excellent point! <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> Although I favor the Congregational ecclesiology I am strongly supportive of the "plurality of Elders". Thus I am sometimes referred to as a "Presbygationalist". <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/giggle.gif" alt="" />

But within the realm of the "plurality of Elders" there is a "power" problem, at least in my experience. The Baptists unfortunately violate the true nature of the "plurality of Elders" (and this is sometimes true in Presbyterian churches as well) by making or allowing one man, aka: "Pastor" to have overriding authority over the other Elders. As I have expressed in other threads here, I am of the mind that although there is a recognizable difference among the Eldership in regard to the gifts of the Spirit, they are nonetheless EQUAL. And when the ideal is practiced as I believe it should be, then there is a far better opportunity for larger churches to be ministered to effectively and personally by those who are given to shepherd them.

In His grace,


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Yes a lot of sbc churches bring in other ministers. The problem is that helps the senior pastor sometimes to think that with the other ministers he can concentrate on just the preaching. Some might not want to get too involved with the people.

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Johnnie_Burgess said:
Yes a lot of sbc churches bring in other ministers. The problem is that helps the senior pastor sometimes to think that with the other ministers he can concentrate on just the preaching. Some might not want to get too involved with the people.
Johnnie,

Read what you wrote again, "Some might not want to get too involved with the people." <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/scratchchin.gif" alt="" /> How about one more time: "Some might not want to get too involved with the people." Now tell me, what kind of man enters the Christian ministry with an attitude like that, where he doesn't want to get too involved with "the people"? Just who does a man minister to, bring comfort, counsel, chide, rebuke, upbuild, encourage, teach, guide and be an example for if not people? <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/dizzy.gif" alt="" />

In His grace,


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