I’ve been struggling with the issue that Kevin Miller raises in a Leadership Journal article (From Relevant Dude to Spiritual Father Summer 2011 pp 45 – 49) whether I am supposed to be somehow “secularly relevant”, your buddy, someone who is cool. Or, am I supposed to be the seel sorger the “soul healer” or “soul doctor”. It doesn’t mean I have to be stuffy or have to put on some kind of superior airs. But to be sure, to be solidly in Christ and not driven by the current fads or worried about my popularity. It’s an issue that I’ve had with a lot of what the church has been in the past few decades, at least dating back to the 1960’s. That somehow I’m supposed to be everyone’s pal, just the cool pastor guy.
First, I have had a lot of experience in the secular in my past life and I am doing things now, such as “Christian in the Workplace”, our employment support group, our pro-life efforts, helping to organize a community radio station here at the church and other areas where I am doing things that are very relevant, as it were, to the individual’s life in the world. I’ve done the politics thing and the government thing, and that’s fine. Martin Luther’s church isn’t opposed to or ignorant of the secular. Luther was very straight forward in terms of his teaching about the two kingdoms. There is the kingdom of the left (the secular, government, commerce, etc) and the kingdom of the right (the church). Luther talked a lot about vocation and how we relate to our neighbor whether he/she is Christian or otherwise. In respect to those teachings, I am responsible for the furtherance of the church in the world. It seems that I am expected to be somehow cool, to somehow be a bud, sometimes even an enabler. Does God love you? Yes? “For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son.” Somehow though, many see that as the promise of the “Great Enabler”. “God wants me to be happy.” “God wouldn’t want me to “suffer”” (that is without alcohol, or drugs, or sex or fill in what you want). That one’s bizarre, I want to ask them “you have no idea what suffering is do you?” Many attribute this to a growing disrespect of authority. Perhaps, but it seems more like a selective attitude towards authority. It’s not about what is truly good and edifying for me, it’s all about tell me what I want to hear. Is it better to be popular or is it better to be faithful? Am I a minister of the people, or of God (Richard Foster’s question).
I’m not here to enable, to let you have guilt free indulgence. I’m here for you to grow in your relationship with Jesus, to become spiritually mature, and in doing this, to help you to serve others, to become a meaningful member of the Body of Christ. Where you are helping others to grow and mature in Christ, not to constantly take and require attention, but to contribute and serve others who are in legitimate need, to help others know true life and salvation in Jesus. But today it’s all about me, what’s in it for me. Rector Miller relates the following: “Chris, a young guy in my church …explained to me: ‘The highly relevant pastor is bro’. There’s certainly a place for pastors to be in tune with culture and to be relatable. But where do i find a man of God who will nurture my spiritual life? That’s what I need. Relevance is easy to find. But when I stumble in that same old sin that I keep slipping in, I need someone with wisdom and maturity to go to. It’s fine if that person also happens to know about some great new indie bands, but in those moments, I need something else. I need depth.'” Yea, sounds like he’s on his way. But too many aren’t and frankly just don’t care.
Miller also observes: “…though people resent church discipline and push back against it, usually deep down they know they need it. And even if they don’t like it (or me), to be a spiritual father means I must take the risk and plunge into bringing guidance and living discipline to my spiritual children…When people sense that your correction comes because you know them and you love them, the majority of people accept discipline and grow through it.
Sometimes I shake my head and wonder, Why do they stay? My theory: They’ve never known a world without internet porn and access to strong, compulsive powers. Deep down, they are saying, ‘Protect me from the forces in my life that are raging out of control and threaten to consume me.’ Discipline, caringly administered, makes them feel loved and secure.”
That has to be the focus, dealing with the forces of evil that are pressing in around us. It’s not just the obvious sources, but there are things that seem so benign and we get taken in and trapped. We all need help with that. I’ve had spiritual mentoring from the start and it is important to be dedicated and consistent. It takes a long time, it takes patience, it’s understanding that it’s about you digging deep and being guided to the things that are in you. You don’t sit and take notes, you get into deep discussion, helped along and making the decisions that truly bring you into that relationship with the Father and with your pastor and with your brothers and sisters in Jesus.
So this is what Rector Miller suggested and what I will be working on. (I will need someone to work with me, you are most welcome to take me up on this). “…’Transformation Conversations’, extended times of listening to another man helping him form a spiritual-growth plan for the coming year… It generally takes two 90-minute conversations before I feel I know the shape of someone’s soul well enough to offer a few ‘pastoral invitations.'”
“At times I look at how much time these conversations take, and I think, This is painfully slow and inefficient. The raw truth is that spiritual fathering is something you can’t accelerate, microwave, chart, whiteboard, measure or scale.
But there is no substitute for being known by another. This is parenting, meaningful spiritual intimacy. People say these conversations are changing them, but even if they weren’t, I know they are changing me: as I listen deeply to someone , I care more deeply for him and I can’t help but pray for him.”(p 47) Growth in anything is very uneven, very time consuming and also very emotionally draining. But as in anything, it’s worth it and when it’s worth it there is a price.
We all have things to deal with, that we struggle with. We have a pastor who is there to serve, by truly helping you in your relationship with God. As I’ve written before, the church is a unique place, there’s a pastor there who in an emergency can be there pretty much 24/7, but is available to meet with on a regular basis. Hmmm, tell me another place where you can call someone and they will take time to talk to you and setup a time to meet in person. Who knows you, who’s been there to provide guidance, maybe married you or even baptized you? Who wants to spiritually guide you and raise you up to be a leader in your home, in your church and in your community? To be spiritually grounded and to grow into a person that others will look to for discipling.