Saturday, December 10, 2005

Reformer or Pastor?

The Doxoblogger, Jeremy Weaver, asked me a wonderful question in the comment section of "Why the Church Needs a Plurality of Elders." It is a question that I had never thought of before, and I have rather enjoyed turning it around and around in my head. So, I thought I'd share. After all, what are blogs for?

His question is "Do you see yourself more as a Reformer or Pastoral?" I love this question, and I would be interested to see how other pastors of the reformed persuasion would answer it.

As for myself, I definitely see myself as Pastoral. There are several reasons for this, and most of it relates to my conception of who the Reformers were, their personalities, and what they did. Of course, this simply begs the question, doesn't it? Notice how I referred to the Reformers in the past tense, as if they are all gone. The Apostles, I believe, have passed away to their reward. But have all the Reformers gone as well? Is the gift of Reformer still alive today?

Let me explain first why I see myself as pastoral, then I will move on to what I think a Reformer is. First of all, I owe everything that I am to someone else. That is, I rarely have an original thought in my head. I read and read and read. I have read , Calvinists, Armenians, Church Fathers, Apostles, Prophets, Charismatics, Landmark Baptists, and heretics of every stripe. I've read parts of the Koran (in Arabic, even!), the Mormon scriptures, and I've done my Greek homework with the Jehovah's Witnesses' New World Translation. That's what I mean by saying that everything that I know I have learned from others.

In the midst of all that reading, thinking, and soul searching, I found my home in the Reformed faith. That is, the Reformed Baptist teaching. But it was and is a grueling process. I did not come to it immediately, and at times I am still uncomfortable. I continue daily to struggle and test my theology.

As I read over the past two paragraphs, I have found a glaring contradiction. It was my goal in those paragraphs to explain why I see myself as pastoral. But what I find there is what I understand a Reformer to be. So, I believe that this is the answer to the question: To myself, I am a Reformer. To others, I am a pastor.

Here is what self-Reformation has done and continues to do for me: It has made me more patient with the struggles of others. Theology is hard work. It is hard on the mind, heart, and soul. Scripture constantly challenges me. It pushes me to know that my God is greater than my 6 - 8 pound brain can handle. I am totally serious about that. It is not pious speech. I am bewildered and enraptured by the mystery of God.

Here is what I mean: I believe that before the world began God chose for Himself a people to be saved by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. I believe that this people will come to Him without fail and that they will be saved to the uttermost. I believe that those who were not elected by God will continue in their sins and die in them. They will die in their sins because God has not chosen them, and yet I believe that they are completely and totally culpable for not coming when He calls. This absolutely blows my mind and frightens me. It is one of the scariest things I have ever known to be true.

I believe that God is Trinity. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet God is One God, and there is no other. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit. Yet the Son is fully God and has been forever and forever will be.

I believe that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary and was fully man and fully God. I believe that the eternal Son of God wet his diaper and cried and grew hungry. I believe that He went through puberty and acne and the awkwardness of youth. And yet I believe that by His will He held the universe together. I believe that He went up on a mountainside with three disciples and the glory of God, His glory, burst forth from His mortal garb and terrified His disciples. And even more incredibly, I believe that He hid it and came back down the mountain.

There are many such things that I believe, and these beliefs are precious to me. They are more precious to me than life and home and money. They burn me up, confound me, confuse me, and delight me.

Every week I step into the pulpit to share such truths with people beloved of God. I share these truths knowing that they will break and hurt and confuse and save. Does this make me a Reformer or a Pastor? I am struggling now to answer the question.

When I think of a Reformer, I think of someone who has it together. Someone who is brilliant. Someone who is confidently systematic like Calvin or fearless like Luther. But would Calvin have preferred the title of "Reformer" over Pastor? Would Luther? Is it fair for me to assume that they were without doubt and struggle and fear? No apostle was exempt from these things. Why should I believe the Reformers were spared such trials?

In the end, I believe that I am a Reforming Pastor. But my goal is not to Reform the Church, though I wish it would reform. My goal is to reform myself. My goal is to teach, with patience, the glorious gospel of Christ. It alone has the power to reform the Church. It alone will prevail over carnality, banality, selfishness and folly. I have that confidence because it has and is reforming me, and I am as hard and callous as anyone to whom I preach.

This may have been a rambling post, but it was extremely helpful to me. I'm glad the Doxoblogist asked. So what say you, friend? Does this make me a Pastor or a Reformer?


Jonathan Moorhead said...

I suppose my first reaction is: are the two mutually exclusive? I think you landed where I would – as a “Reforming Pastor.”

Jeremy Weaver said...

This is a great post. I fully agree with you.

As regarding my question, however, I was trying to determine what the main issues you deal with in your blog are.
I'm not trying to chop you up into pieces, I just wanted to know which category I should put you in for those who are looking through my blogroll.
'Avengers' is for blogs I read that have a consistent 'reforming' bent to their writing.

'X-Men' is for those that we all learn from.

'Justice League' is for blogs that are explaining texts and theological concepts.

'Fantastic Four' is for my closest friends who are bloggers. My pastor and brother, Steve Weaver, fellow church member, Jeff Wright, co-conspirator, Marc Heinrich, and good buddy, John Rush.

There is no merit to any of the categories, except for maybe the 'X-Men' who are really not X-Men but a group of Professor Xaviers.

Sojourner said...

Oh, well in that case I'm definitely more pastoral. Many of the folks who read here are internet savy members of my church. I write here so that they may be encouraged, learn some doctrine, and get to know me better. So, this is *normally* pastoral in tone. Except when I write about my trips to the doctor, which I should probably stop writing about because the students can really hammer you for stuff like that.

brother terry said...

I see the heart of a Pastor shining through this post!

I love the term "self-reforming", it intimates something that is very precious to my ministry: Preaching your way through spiritual growth.