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Pastor Paul: Nurturing a Culture of Christoformity in the Church
How many times is the “role” of pastor mentioned in the NT? Once….
Its amazing to me what the church has made of this. Every believer is an embodiment of Christ in this world, and therein lies the problem. There is absolutely nothing unique to pastor in that regard. In many ways, its just become the Protestant version of a priest….
““For he who endeavours to amend the faults of human weakness ought to bear this very weakness on his own shoulders, let it weigh upon himself, not cast it off.
For we read that the Shepherd in the Gospel (Luke 15:5) carried the weary sheep, and did not cast it off.
And Solomon says: “Be not overmuch righteous;” (Ecclesiastes 7:17) for restraint should temper righteousness.
For how shall he offer himself to you for healing whom you despise, who thinks that he will be an object of contempt, not of compassion, to his physician?
Therefore had the Lord Jesus compassion upon us in order to call us to Himself, not frighten us away. He came in meekness, He came in humility, and so He said:
“Come unto Me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” (Matthew 11:28)
So, then, the Lord Jesus refreshes, and does not shut out nor cast off, and fitly chose such disciples as should be interpreters of the Lord’s will, as should gather together and not drive away the people of God.
Whence it is clear that they are not to be counted among the disciples of Christ, who think that harsh and proud opinions should be followed rather than such as are gentle and meek;
persons who, while they themselves seek God’s mercy, deny it to others . . .”
St. Ambrose (340-379 A.D.),
a Father and Doctor of the Church
I’m anxious to read this Scot. I feel like I’ve been jipped out of Christoformity in the Evangelical church. I have been in countless small groups, bible studies, read tons of devotionals and memorized all kinds of scripture and there still is a big gap on how to be transformed through intimacy with Christ. The church does a poor job in spiritual formation and ‘soul care’. It’s time we go back to studying to the early church fathers and how they accomplished abiding in the vine and being content in all circumstances. It’s no wonder the millinnials have left the church. They don’t find Christians living a life radically different than the world.
I seriously wonder if the modern church has borrowed some ideas from American government… with the senior pastor being the executive branch, and an elder board being some kind of a legislative and/or judicial branch that somewhat keeps the executive branch in check. “Pastor” is explicitly named as a NT vocation only once (Gr word poimen = “shepherd”) as you said, and as a verb, the shepherding role goes to elders in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2.
But all of the dances I’ve seen in other theological circles to put the responsibilities of elder, overseer, teacher, and shepherd under one umbrella term of “pastor” is exegetically strange to me. That said, I think everyone who has leadership responsibilities in the church, particularly in a vocational capacity, has the call to embody God’s presence to the world. Pastors happen to be the ones who model and train that practice to the rest of the church.
You don’t have to wonder. The US government is patterned after Presbyterian polity. Designed to keep one individual from having sole power.
Alex, this is an error. “Role”? You must mean “term” not “role” for to count “role” instances means defining that role. I define the role of the pastor as nurturing Christoformity, and that idea is in the NT all over the place. Now, add to your minimalizing of the instances of the term to the OT and you will discover that leaders are not infrequently called shepherds/pastors. Now add to this references like Matt 9:36 and John 10, 2, 11-12, 14, where these two Gospels critique false shepherds, hold up Jesus as shepherd, but seem at least to extend to that task to others (esp in Matt 10), along with your “once”: Eph 4:11. In the NT Jesus is the great shepherd but some are called to shepherd others under Jesus as the Shepherd. The term “pastor” is not unique to Protestantism: the term was used from early on for the pastoral nurturing of others. I agree 100% that we can all have pastoring tasks but I also believe there are some called to the pastoral task in a church. Most
Any study of church history will see that the American pastoral image derives from the history of the church’s pastoral calling. There are pastoral manuals from early centuries. What’s going on in the USA is not one bit unique.
I found the affirmations about pastors “forming culture” a bit confusing. Once I understood that the book is talking about a local congregational ‘subculture’, it cleared it up somewhat for me. People like James Davison Hunter in “To Change the World” have already shown how nearly impossible it is for a particular stream of Christianity to change, alter, shape or create the larger culture. Thinking that it is our responsibility to shape or create “culture” (writ large) can border dangerously on neoChristendom or MAGA. Otherwise, it looks like a good book. “Christoformity” is always a good idea, the challenge is how to instill it effectively.