Here's something else I have been thinking about: I am increasingly frustrated by the way mainline churches (and I can't just pick on Lutherans here) keep their parishoners "in their place." I call it "glorified babysitting." Was the way of the old ministers with their emphasis on visitation really the best way? It is still the expectation of churchgoers...especially the old folk. They feel that the pastor should preach, lead worship, and be chaplain to them. The pastor should do lots of visitation and make them feel good while doing it.
Now, I know that to a certain extent pastors ought to mingle with the people and make them feel good because that helps people to realize that you care about them. And when people feel cared about, they don't feel that they are a "project" for you. They are loved and that's why you speak the Word to them, because it is good for them and because you love them. Also, some pastors are more geared towards individual interaction, and so the pulpit is a difficult place for them. Perhaps they speak the Word better in small groups, counseling sessions, and home visits.
However, I think that sometimes all this pastoral care can become babysitting. And sometimes people never grow up. When I was growing up in the fundamentalist church, perhaps it was my limited perspective as a child, but I saw the pastor as first and foremost a preacher. He was there to teach us about the Bible, but in such a way that he made us hungry for the Word ourselves. He was there to fuel our faith, not to have faith for us. I didn't think that a good pastor did a lot of visitation. I thought a good pastor preached the Word. I didn't necessarily expect that a pastor would be at the hospital if I had a surgery or broken leg. He might be there, he might not. Christian friends probably would be though. And if I had an illness, I could come to church and have the elders lay hands on me (as it talks about in James). But I had a responsibility to study the Bible and grow as a Christian, beyond Sunday mornings.
We mainline preachers have got to stop babysitting people. We've got to start realizing that our job is to empower the saints, to make them hungry and thirsty for God and for the Word. Our goal is to "work ourselves out of a job" in a way. Only then will our churches stop depending on the pastor to tell them what to believe and start growing in maturity themselves.
Now that is tough. I'm leading a young adult Bible study right now. I know I will soon be gone and no longer able to lead the group. So I want them to lead sessions from time to time, in order to be used to it. One of the members of the group wants to go so far as to have everyone take turns leading. And the group actually WANTS to! They are growing...and taking ownership of their faith! Yay! But...gulp! Don't they need me anymore? It feels good to be needed. It feels good to be the spiritual "expert." It certainly means I have to let go of my pride and my need to be needed. But if I do that, they will grow and they will benefit. If I do that, I will be able to see that God used me to bring them together and to launch this searching the Scriptures for themselves. And that is a miracle and an awesome thing. It is a far better thing than me having to dominate all the time.Ephesians 4:
11 He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, 13 until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.Hebrews 5:
11 There is so much more we would like to say about this. But you don't seem to listen, so it's hard to make you understand. 12 You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. F28
You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 And a person who is living on milk isn't very far along in the Christian life and doesn't know much about doing what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.I Peter 2:
2 You must crave pure spiritual milk so that you can grow into the fullness of your salvation. Cry out for this nourishment as a baby cries for milk, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness