As we anticipate calling and receiving a new senior pastor, I thought it good to share an essay recently written by SID President, Rev. Timothy Schaar. With our Lord's guidance over the month(s) ahead we look forward to the next pastor's installation at Zion.
by Rev. Timothy Schaar
A new pastor is being installed. You prayed. God answered. He moved the man standing before you today to come to your congregation. This pastor prayerfully considered what you sent him. The Holy Spirit moved him to accept this new position. He is filled with excitement. He can only imagine what the Lord will do in the years ahead. There is more than a little apprehension as he adjusts to you and you to him. His family needs to get settled and he is eager to get to work with the congregation.
The day of installation is filled with expectations. Some are great, most are hopeful and a few are skeptical. The pastor standing before you is well-trained. He has proficiency in Biblical knowledge and the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church. He may have many years of pastoral experience prior to arriving at your congregation. He most certainly had a life before becoming your pastor. How can the various expectations become a fruitful pastoral ministry?
During the installation service neighboring pastors read over thirty Scriptural citations. Each reading focuses on God's expectation for pastors. The pastor is a
steward of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4.1-2). In addition to the Bible readings your pastor promises to conduct his life and ministry according to the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord of 1580. These confessions regulate the doctrine that is proclaimed and practiced according to the Holy Scriptures.
In its most basic element, the pastor leads the flock through time and prepares them for eternity. His tools of the trade are the Holy Scriptures, Baptism, Confession & Absolution and the Lord's Supper. The catechism of Martin Luther is an excellent summary of the faith for the baptized to learn and remember. The proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel undergird his teaching, preaching and pastoral care. Sin is revealed and condemned by the Law. It hurts when the Law hits home and convicts us of our sins. The work of the Law is necessary for the forgiveness of sins through the Gospel. We have a gracious God who is more interested in salvation than damnation. He wills you to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Above all, your pastor must give an account to the Lord for the conduct of His ministry. You also will give account for what you have done in receiving God's gifts through this man.
Your pastor is not perfect. Not even close. He is a sinner. He is also a baptized and redeemed child of God. He rejoices in the forgiveness of sins as much as you do. Like you, he has a Savior who is Jesus Christ. His sinful flesh enables him to understand temptations. He wrestles with the Old Adam just like everyone else. Your pastor is not omnipresent. He cannot be in the office and out making calls at the same time. He is not omniscient. You will have to tell him things for he cannot read your mind. If you have something for him to know before or after church, write it down and give him the note. It is easy to forget what one person asked when greeting dozens of people, some of whom have similar requests. He would rather hear from several people that Jane Doe is in the hospital rather than for Jane, her family and friends to assume that he knows she is in the hospital.
In accepting your call your pastor is most likely moving away from his and his wife's home. It takes time for him to learn the area, the congregation and the customs that you follow. Just as he is eager to become acquainted with you, ask him about his family, background and previous pastorates. You might be surprised at what you will discover. It may better explain him and why he does what he does. His wife and children are also in a new environment. They are separated from family and friends. Help them adjust by getting acquainted. Invite them to your home. Take them out to eat. She is not
Mrs. Pastor but the wife of the man who is your pastor. She and the children are lay members of the congregation. Let her choose where she can use her gifts as a volunteer in the church.
Your pastor is not the congregation's activity director. He is to tend the flock, preach the Word, baptize, teach and preside at the Lord's Supper. Lutherans use a German term, Seelsorger in describing the pastoral office. He serves Jesus Christ in serving you. He is not a substitute for you; He cannot do the congregation's loving for you. Pastor and people are in this together. It is discouraging when people withdraw from activity once he is installed. He is not the cause of previous conflict. Called by God through the congregation, he is the Lord's man to address concerns with you. Be eager to learn from him just as he learns from you. Above all, be the people of God He calls you to be. Continue in the Apostles' Doctrine, the Fellowship, the Breaking of Bread, and the Prayers. Attend Divine Service weekly. Commune often. Be in an organized congregational Bible Study. Continue to grow and learn from God's Word. Then you also, will be able to declare the wonders of Him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2.10).
The Apostle Paul describes an ideal Christian congregation in Colossians 3; would that every gathering of believers lived in this manner! What can you do to help our church practice such lofty ideals? Paul writes,
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3.12-17.
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