The need for pastors in our pulpits and session meetings...

Someone commented under the previous post, "Pastors and their sinecures...," that the Reformed church today needs reform in the area of restoring Calvin and Luther's teaching on birth control. To which I respond:

The problem with the Reformed church today isn't our failure to teach or preach on this or that issue—even the refusal of the people of God to propagate for their Lord a godly seed—so much as it is an almost complete betrayal of the pastoral office. And this is true in our session meetings as much as the pastor's office and the pulpit. Sadly, it's true of our marriages and families, too. Men don't take responsibility for the souls God has placed under our care and we aren't vigilant in protecting the honor of our offices because we don't exercise our offices. Which is to say that our churches have no fathers. They have readers and debaters and curators and featherbedders and teachers, but no fathers.

Abortion and feminism are simply the best labs to observe how vacuous we have made the pastoral office today. Take abortion, for instance: lots and lots of loud condemnations within the Reformed world and church with not a word of... preaching to our own congregations calling us--not them!--to repent of murdering our unborn. Our churches have many, many souls with the blood of their children and grandchildren staining their hands, but the pastoral office is busy condemning SCOTUS. Inane. Or I should say wicked.

Brothers, our own churches are filled with the murder of our own unborn through IUDs and ECPs and chemical and surgical abortions; we all agree it's murder and we go out and picket Planned Murderhood without asking the tough questions of one another or preaching to the consciences of the souls under our pastoral care.

Our own churches are filled with incest, past and present, which has never had shepherds pull kicking and screaming out into the open for repentance and healing. The problem isn't sins like chosen fruitlessness that we have refused to condemn. The problem is a view of pastoral care, of shepherding that cultivates ministers who think ignorance of their flocks is good.

I have said many times to the men in our Pastors College that the—did you note the definite article?—the curriculum of every seminary, Reformed or otherwise, is that conflict is to be avoided at all costs. And if this is what pastors are really taught, what do we think elders will be like? The only hope of most elders coming to accept preaching to the conscience and the discipline of doctrine and morals is an unflinching shepherd who preaches and moderates and loves them to enter the tunnel of chaos and actually shepherd their sheep. Calvin had mostly magistrates as elders and magistrates are normally conservative, unwilling to discipline as they ought. So Calvin fought Geneva's magistrates and the battle was joined at fever pitch and lasted many years.

It's impossible to understand the Reform of Geneva or Europe without understanding there were enemies and Calvin and Beza and all the rest believed if they didn't join those battles, the sheep would die and Christ our Lord would hold their shepherds accountable for those sheep. So they fought and fought and fought and loved and loved and loved. And they didn't talk as if it were possible to love without fighting.

But the fighting was intensely pastoral. Read one single thing by Calvin and see how he loves and protects the souls under his care in every last theological treatise he ever writes, let alone in his consistory meetings! Has anyone ever read the minutes of his consistory meetings and seen how this dear man and his colleagues spent their time?

New Mother: "We was in the tavern and he drank marriage to me and we was in the haysack and now he won't take me as his wife and this wee one his son. He drank marriage to me!"

New Father (maybe):"The heck you say! I never drank marriage to you!"

New Mother: "Did too, you no-good dirty dog!"

Calvin: "Wait a minute. Calm down! Were there any witnesses to his drinking marriage to you? Who else was there in the tavern that night?"

New Mother: "How should I know! We was drinking! You think I'd remember?"

New Father (maybe): "Yeah, how should she know? She was DRUNK, the slut."

(This is not an actual quote, but it's so very typical of the sort of thing Geneva's Consistory records are full of as not to need documentation. Anyone who's ever looked at the volume knows what the Geneva consistory members spent their time on.)

The only thing that will reform the unReformed church today is the restoration of pastoral oversight and care to the curriculum of our pastors colleges. I'm doubtful any of our current seminaries could turn their ship in this regard.

Then the men trained thusly would go out in our churches with a vision for the necessity of conflict for love and peace and unity to prevail. Then and only then would we have preaching to the conscience and counseling to the conscience and moderating session meetings so that money and scheduling and administration are relegated to the time left over at the end of the evening.

Souls and sin and repentance and faith and fruitfulness would be restored to the center of our work and the church would be alive and persecuted again.


Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.


I did not realize my few words could bring forth such a torrent.  :)

I will say there are pastors who do the work you describe, I've had a couple.  And I'm pretty much certain no member of our church has ever had an abortion although admittedly that's a total of four families with sixteen children under 10.  But by and large you're right so I don't regret unwittingly prompting you.

I like the link between the failure of men as pastors and the failure of men as fathers. Maybe the toughest thing for a Christian is his affirmative duties. It's not really so hard to avoid fornication yourself. It's a lot harder to avoid thoughts about fornication, but that's do-able too, especially with regard to intentional, habitual, thoughts. But what's really tough is to make yourself call out other people on fornication--- your sheep, if you're a pastor or elder, or your friends and family, whether you are or not.  We all need a lot of pushing on that. 

The traditional Reformed understanding is that fathers are the pastors of their family.  To be honest I have trouble seeing how people can watch their children growing up and not take that seriously.  I may do it rather badly but I'm at least trying to do it.

Martin Luther once proclaimed that:

"The purpose of marriage is not pleasure and ease but the procreation and education of children and the support of a family ... People who do not like children are swine, dunces, and blockheads, not worthy to be called men and women, because they despise the blessing of God, the Creator and Author of marriage" (Christian History, Issue 39, p. 24).

Luther also said that birth control was the equivalent of sodomy (probably because of the likeness between homosexual wickedness and impotent sex).

In a sex-soaked world, if your Church's bylaws don't expressly prohibit the Pill and all of its offspring [e.g., Contraception, Abortion, Sterilization (CAS)], how can Luther's immortal epithets (i.e., Swine, Dunce, and Blockhead, not worthy to be called a Man) not apply to your pastor?

Here's a new movie, one of two is out, the second being worked on, I was blessed to be a part of. Perhaps it might prove useful in helping some Christians come to understand their calling-

Brothers, This post along with the previous one on pastoring were very convicting. I find that I need to often be called back to the bloody work of sanctification, a work I was not prepared to do. No one ever told me that courage was an absolute necessity in pastoral ministry, especially one on one ministry.  But it is and I am grateful for the men who remind me of that.

I would love some input on how to shepherd the birth control issue. However, I do not want to hijack the post and there are probably different opinions, so if this is too far off topic you can ignore it or come back to it later. As you can imagine, I did not get good training on birth control or a whole host of other sexual issues in seminary and have been working my way through these issues since becoming a pastor five years ago. Here are a couple of my questions. There are more, but these are some major ones that keep coming up. Have you guys (Baylys or commenters) preached directly against birth control or do you address this more one on one? Second, is birth control an offense that you would excommunicate for and if so at what point? Third, how do you handle anti-birth controllers who are heavy handed with the issue, but not pastoral? Peter Jones, Pastor Christ Church of Morgantown

So, what would this look like? Is this something that is exhibited more from the pulpit or in counseling in the pastor's study?

Anyone preaching repentance to their congregation has to be prepared to get fired and be slandered.  It is a sure way of finding out if your congregation will tolerate the gospel that includes the laws of God.  If they won't pack your bags and start a new church.

Dear Peter and Respectabiggie, Given the time demands in my next couple of weeks, I'm sorry not to be able to respond on anything more than a superficial level. I preach pretty much the same commitments you'll find here on Baylyblog, but the audience is much different.

Preaching is always more tender with the cookies on a lower shelf since my preaching is focussed on the flock whereas Baylyblog is usually focussed on shepherds--pastors, elders, deacons, and Titus 2 women. Concerning preaching, though, I think it's best to focus the intense condemnation on abortifacient methods of birth control while exhorting always and evermore that children are a blessing from the Lord and happy is the man whose quiver is full. Then we are more specific in premarital and marital counselling, as well as our weekly men's discipleship teaching ministry called David's Mighty Men.

And by the way, full disclosure should lead me to say here that there are certain exceptional cases where I have endorsed the use of contraception by couples in the church. Of course, those exceptions are aimed at situations where there is some danger to the mother and her family.

Sorry this is all I'm writing, but likely this is best handled with conversation in person, anyhow. And that's part of the purpose of our annual Clearnote Pastors Conference--to have time to sit and talk through pastoral challenges and methods of reform. I hope you and others will come. Our next conference is this coming February 21-22 here in Bloomington, and our theme is "Preach the Word."

By the way, we're happy to have both pastors and elders attend the conference, as well as men aspiring to these offices.

Merry Christmas!

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