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.