When you sit towards the back the majority of the congregation are facing away from you. All you see is the back of their heads. When you sit at the front they are facing towards you. When they sing, they sing in your direction. Half the songs we sing are directed towards God. But the other half are directed to one another. We extol God’s glory and grace to one another and exhort one another to worship the triune God. I need that exhortation. And when I sit at the front I get from both two barrels, as it were. There is a wall of noise coming my way which is stirring my affections. If you sit at the back you have all the effort and none of the benefits.
Although there may be a sliver of truth in each of these conceptions, I think each one is inadequate. The reason is because they fall short of the biblical imagery used to describe this scriptural office. So, instead of thinking a pastor is like a chaplain, CEO, or contractor, I want to suggest three alternatives, and, in so doing, help us to rethink the role of a pastor.
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“Childlike” isn’t a new term to anyone familiar with Christian thinking and practice. We’re often directed to passages like Mark 10:14: “Let the children come to me,” Jesus says. “Do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” The point: we should be childlike in our faith, trusting our heavenly Father the way a kid trusts his earthly parents.
We should, though, use this national holiday to reflect as Christians on what the gospel teaches us about war. For some Christians, Memorial Day is a complicated experience. These Christians would argue that it is inconsistent at best for believers in the gospel to celebrate anything won by war. They think, “Didn’t Jesus settle this on the Sermon on the Mount? What’s hard to interpret about ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love your enemies’?”
As long as we aren’t that bad of sinners, we won’t need that big of a Savior. As Christians, it’s important that we realize that our problem is worse than we thought. Sin has permeated the depths of who we are. We aren’t as bad as we could be, but every faculty we have has been kissed by this sickness called sin. And when compared to the perfect standard of Christ, we have fallen far short.
Imagine a door.
Maybe it’s a front door to a house. You walk up to that door, and maybe even you admire that door. It’s beautiful. Maybe it’s painted red and you’ve always loved red doors. Or maybe it’s a screen door and you think that your house would be more comfortable if you had a screen door to let the fall breeze in. Or maybe it has glass in it so that it’s very stylish and hip and cool right now. But though you admire it, you don’t simply stand there and look at the door. You didn’t come for the door. You came for what’s inside. That’s where you want to sit and eat and dwell. The door, though it may be very beautiful, is ultimately only the means you will use to get into the house. What’s inside is what you’re really after.
God is good. But until we understand the truth that He is not safe, that He is not under our control, until we come to grips with His holy majesty, transcendence, and utter independence, we will never begin to appreciate His fascinating and awe-inspiring character. Indeed, we will find Him boring—as all man-made gods are, and as the one and only true God is anything but.