I’m thinking of a great moment in the Monty Python film “Life of Brian”. In it, Brian is falsely followed as a Messiah: a claim he never gave and knows is entirely inaccurate. He delivers a speech, telling the crowd to quit following people and decide for themselves what they think they should do. The crowd is in awe, repeating these commands word for word. Finally, he tells them all to leave him alone and they’re confused: what command is next from this new Messiah?
How did the church, which is to be a community of saints, become so bottle-necked, so focused on the pinprick of one individual, one office? How did we lose sight of the doctrine of “The Priesthood of ALL Believers”?
This will not be an investigation of how the 21st Century has become lopsided in its focus on the office of the pastor. However, there is an assumption that the duties, objectives, and “to-do lists” of the pastor has become, in our consumer based culture, the very thing people use to figure out this whole “Kingdom of God”. And here’s another assumption within my tale: God’s work is not limited exclusively to the job of the pastor.
Assumptions aside, the 21st Century Man who feels himself led by God to take up the role of “Pastor” is stuck with a mixed bag: some of his office is of God and some of it is muddled, distorted, and distraught by the church’s over-expectation placed upon it’s leadership.
As our world changes, the church does as well, leaving the office of the pastor always changing: some changes based on need, some based on neurotic expectation, some on Divine calling, and some based upon the shaping of our darkened world. How then does one navigate to produce lasting change in an office that may face several, dramatic revisions? This is the mixed bag of the pastoral office in the 21st Century.
What does one do with such a mixed bag?
The mixed bag of leadership, where God and a Holy calling and the individual’s hang-ups and cultural toxicity and other people’s wonky expectations all live, is nothing new.
This is an ancient problem, embedded in the story of King David. David assumed the throne of King, an office that was clearly not from God’s heart. He was expected to behave as a King not always based upon the Law of God, but by what other pagan, Godless kings and empires were doing. And yet David made it work, was blessed by God and was faithful with much of this man-made office.
David ruled on a throne ruling a sandcastle: a man-made construct that could topple at any moment. And ruling from this sandcastle, he made long-lasting and became an instrument of God’s eternal blessing.
King David is an example of how his faithfulness and God’s blessing was able to lead Israel through a kingship that was not governed by office, but by character. How???
“It Wasn’t My Idea”
Was it such a good idea for Israel to have a king? Everyone else had a King. Everyone else seemed to want to attack Israel, because they didn’t have a king. Stands to reason: time to grow up, turn into an empire, and get a king.
Commentaries split on whether or not Israel should have had a king.
Ronald F. Youngblood contends, “A major purpose of Samuel, then, is to define monarchy as a gracious gift of God, to his chosen people.” (Gaebelein 559) According to Youngblood, Israel could not advance any further of their following of God unless God gave them a kind and by His grace, David was brought forth.
Eugen H. Merrill describes, “The 300 or so years of the history of Israel under the Judges were marked by political, moral, and spiritual anarchy and deterioration.” (Walvoord and Zuck 431). The anarchic violence became so intense, their was a need for a strong government to centralize the violence in the form of kingship- an argument posed by
Marty Alan Michelson in his book “Reclaiming Violence and Kingship”. For this school of thought, violence made necessary a king who could have armies, issue capital punishment, and bring order-through force-to the land.
Israel, to these scholars, needed a king and needed one fast.
On the other side, C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch argue that having a King was far from God’s original plan. “Israel was to become a kingship of priests, i.e., a kingdom whose citizens were priests and kings.” (Keil and Delitzsch 367). For these two scholars, the Coming of the Messiah resulted in David’s Kingship (that’s good). The cost was that the citizens of Israel no longer trusted God nor were active in justice, but “farmed out” this responsibility to a king due to lack of faith (that’s bad). Over and over again in their comments on the text, they remind the reader that kingship is due insecurity and a doubt if God will do something different with them. To have a king like everyone else is to fall short.
These are three commentaries that are popular, found on most pastor’s shelves. At the worst, there is a split in scholarship as to whether or not Israel ought to have had a King; at the very best, there is a dangling ambiguity over the reader’s and writer’s mind as to if this was 100% a good idea.
It was certainly a popular idea in David’s time. Much of David’s practices as king were borrowed from other kingdoms:
• The slaying and collection of specific body parts of your enemies as means of counting the dead were practiced by ancient Egyptians (1 Samuel 18)
• Using aliens as bodyguards, a practice borrowed from the Near Eastern Kingdoms to Israel (8:18).
• Offensive battles against other kingdoms, a pre-emptive strike instead of using the military merely defensively as with the time of Judges (2 Sam. 5).
• Stripping the dead, a practice very common amongst the Philistines.
To have a king was popular in David’s time and David ruled in all of the popular ways.
The people wouldn’t have thought any ambiguity towards the throne. And most protestant scholars wouldn’t have such a problem with the kingship of David.
Why would Protestant Christian scholars like David as King? Simple: his line brought about Christ. Jesus was of the line of David, born in the town of David, and fulfills the Kingship of David as Lord of Lords, King of Kings. What’s not to like?
The ambiguity of the King’s place in Israel comes from the fact that God wasn’t part of the idea. Samuel the prophet is bombarded with the requests of Israel to make a king, to stop being in charge, and to become like the rest of the kingdoms.
These cries often take me back to my first ministry experience. The church I worked at had their founding pastor of 32 years retire. They replaced him with his son in-law (How different can an in-law be?) and he lasted only 20 months.
After this time, the church went through a crisis of doubt: we must be a really bad church if we couldn’t keep the found pastor’s son in-law. Rather than work on some of their issues, experience a church renewal, or learn from the mistakes, they chose to quickly hire another pastor.
The week before he “came aboard”, the Executive Pastor met with me and we agreed to update our resumes. “The church has decided to put all of the health, all of the wellness upon the staff. And if we fail or do not perform, we will need these resumes,” he said.
He was right. The next 14 months were painful. The new pastor’s job was simple: clean-up the staff, clean-up the church, and make us successful again.
I resigned. The staff resigned. And after 28 months, the Senior Pastor was forced to resign.
Our church wanted a king to fix everything; he couldn’t.
Sammuel, like the good priest, took Israel’s requests for a King (“Fix everything!) to God.
He replied, “But the LORD told him, ‘Listen to the people and everything they said to you. They have not rejected you; they have rejected Me as their king. They are doing the same thing to you as they did to Me, since the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, abandoning Me and worshipping other gods.” 1 Sammuel 8:7-8
Yes, a king was popular; yes, scholars love the Davidic line from kingship; and yes, there was good that came from the throne inside the king’s sandcastle.
But at the heart of Israel’s kingship was rejection of God. Rather than being a “weird nation” that didn’t have kings- but trusted in God and the priests and miracles to lead them- they chose government.
Yes, good was accomplished through the throne: but how much of it was accomplished through military might, civic organization, clever planning…and how much of it was through the LORD’s miraculous hand? It’s no wonder the miracles of Israel start running out by the time of established governance, as the ambiguity of sand starts filling the cracks of the empire.
At best, Israel’s kingdom was ruled by a man-made sandcastle, ready to topple due to the warring issues of ambiguity.
I was a Jr. High Cabin leader of 12 boys, asked by the director to do a “mixer” game at the beginning of the week. They were to go to once side or the other of the cabin, picking images that best described themselves (Ex.- Go to the left if your more like an Ice Cream Sunday, go right if you’re like Chocolate cake, Left- Batman, Right- Tarzan, Left- a hammer, Right- a saw, etc.).
The cabin, without any deviation, picked a side and went in mass. When asking why, they would mimic each other’s answers. Finally, the last pick was telling: “Go to the left if you’re like an eagle, go to the right if your like a cougar.” The whole cabin went left.
I asked why. “An eagle is an independent spirit, a leader,” the first boy said.
“Yeah,” the second boy reiterated. “I’m a leader, I take a stand against the grain…like an eagle!”
Everyone echoed this. The last boy, a shy kid given to reading comic books alone during free time, repeated this answer, with a twist: “I guess I’m a leader. I’m independent…or at least, that’s what everyone else says.”
This is the vicarious and overlapping influence of leadership. Leaders have followers; leaders often follow followers. Leaders follow other leaders who follow followers who are in turn follow other leaders following other followers. Leaders follow…you get the idea.
To protect Israel from a solitary, consolidated tyrant, God had multiple levels of leaders. Plus, this seems to be how God operates: he does not speak to the one, but the many. A Quaker friend of mine put it best, “If one man gets a vision, he could be crazy or wise. It’s uncertain. If two or three get the same vision, it could be a result of group think or social pressure. But if many get the vision, from different walks of life and different stations, it more than likely from God.”
God, through His grace, used a three-station approach when it came to the early years of Israel’s government (See Fig. 1). Each station was to influence each other, becoming a loose “check and balance” subject, often, to human error and corruption.
Influence is the key word, for truly this is the heart of leadership. “Leadership is the art of multiplying influence, and by this standard Jesus must be considered the master artist,” Greg Ogden and Daniel Meyer write in their study book Leadership Essentials (Ogden and Meyer 13).
God did not want just political power or positional authority to lead His people: He wanted men and women to influence Israel, multiple leaders working in a lead/follow role, coming at problems multi-dimensionally and covering all facets of communal life.
He did this through the three positions of King, Priest, and Prophet. All three of these were blessed by God, were faithful to God (at times), and were part of the influence fabric of Israel.
The Hebrew word for King is the denominative word “to reign”. Simply, the King is the sole individual who rules, reigns, governs, and leads. What made Israel’s kingship different was that this individual was not the highest authority. Many ancient empires made their kings gods, so that even the heavens and all of nature would answer to them. Before the idea of social contracts and constitutional authority, the government worked for the King; not the other way around, as it is today.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia gives an interesting note: “From the beginning of its (Israel) existence as a nation it bore the character of a religious and moral community, a theocratic commonwealth, having Jeh Himself as the Head and ruler. The theocracy is not to be mistaken for a hierarchy, nor can it strictly be identified with any existent form of political organization. It was rather something over and above…It did not supersede the tribal organization of Israel, but it supplied the centralizing power…” (Orr 1799-1800).
The King worked for God, if done right, and would never supplant or replace the communal systems God placed in Israel from the Torah.
The first king was David’s predecessor, Saul. Saul, in many respects, acted more like a Judge than a King. He followed the past footsteps, fighting battles like Jephtha, Ibzan, and Gideon. David was a popular soldier, but became an even more popular king mainly because he functioned as Israel’s first King.
My wife has accused me of using “the Pastor’s Voice” when I am either in trouble or I’m trying to sound noble. “The Pastor’s Voice” is an odd mix of sincerity, intention, and logic. Much like Obi Wan Kenobi, there’s confidence and an almost hypnotic quality. This cadence, under no circumstances, can achieve anything in my home; once in a while, I use it to end a sermon that has no real conclusion; and, certainly, I find myself using when I met other Pastor’s with similar sound to a Jedi Master.
“The Pastor Voice” came from social expectations, formed by churches as what people wanted a Pastor to be/sound like/act like. To be sincere, calm, logical, and confident: if one can’t behave like this all the time, at least we can change our voice to sound like it.
And I’m sure it’s been reinforced socially, someone pointing at their young pastor full of the Force, saying, “That’s a real Pastor!”
Israel pointed to David, it seemed, saying, “That’s a real King!”
David had the whole King package. Raised by a Godly mother (Psalm 86:16), soft hearted to his enemies (2 Samuel 1), was one of the best songwriters (2 Samuel 23:1), a worship leader/priest (1 Chronicles 6:31), broken when wrong (Psalm 51), a natural leader (1 Samuel 23, 24), and could fight (1 Samuel 18).
If there was anyone who could centralize power and be the focal point of power, it was King David. However, there’s just one catch: God didn’t generate this office of King.
The King’s throne was incredibly institutional, part of “system” of Israel. Wildly popular.
Effective in military, cultural, and infrastructural advancement. And a part from the calling of God.
This study shall be spared from the theological musings of God blessing what was not His calling. As well, there will be very little political comparisons to present day empires.
It is interesting that God blessed a nation that did it’s own thing, independent of His calling.
Just as the King was part of the institutional fabric of Israel, so were the priests. Set a part, they were their own genetic line from Levi. The society was held together by the presence of the priests providing not only a community identity (“There goes our priest!”), but focus of worship just as part of Israel as the land itself.
Unlike the King, the Priests were divinely appointed. A whole book centered around their activity, Leviticus, outlining the laws of their office, legitimizing their presence by the LORD.
They were to be set-apart, or divided, as Robert Alter illuminates,
“The single verb that focuses the major themes of Leviticus-“divide” (Hebrew, hivdil).
That verb stands at the beginning of the Priestly story of creation…What enables existence and provides a framework for the development of human nature, conceived in God’s image, and of human civilization is a process of division and insulation-light from darkness, day from night…That same process is repeatedly manifested in the ritual, sexual, and dietary laws of Leviticus…” (Alter 543).
The priests led by division, by stepping out of the culture and the systems of Israel This was the presumed source of power (Presumed is the key word: it seems that the Priests lost their ability to influence when they were too cozy with the throne or blending into the overall sins of Israel [Ex. 1 Samuel 2:12-21, 8:1-5]).
To be set-apart, divided from what was common, to be…weird.
The Prophets were the “wild” card (when you were playing the game “Uno”, remember?). The King and the Priests were part of “the system”, they belonged in Israel, and were functioning as an institution. No such rules applied to the Prophets. Although there is some Biblical evidence they may have had their own school (2 Kings 19-22), the Torah gives little legal structure for their existence and there isn’t much insistence that Israel must always have a Prophet.
And yet in times of trouble, God always sent one.
The office of the Prophet was the essence of organic leadership: they spoke and led not out of positional authority, but because of a message from the LORD. God granted their audience, not Mosaic Law or the existing power structures of the day.
Essentially, the Prophets were used when the “system” could no longer function as obedient children following the LORD. The moment the problems of Israel became too ingrained, too close to home: a Prophet was sent to shake things up and influence the leaders back towards the heart of God.
The Prophet has several tools in his box. The Prophet could speak about secret things that no one’s supposed to know about (1 Samuel 3:11-18), commission an army for battle (1 Samuel 7:5), confront (1 Samuel 15), use imagery to evoke repentance (2 Samuel 12:1-10), and predict the future (2 Samuel 12:11-15).
Due to the lack of office, both Samuel and Nathan functioned as David’s prophet. Samuel was an institutional leader; Nathan an organic leader. As an institutional leader, his office was implied by the Law and society; Nathan spoke through natural talents, gifting, and an earned relationship.
Not only the “who” of a Prophet is fluid, the “what” and “how” can change depending upon a Prophet. There is no job description, no measurable duties that exist every week.
It’s all upon the bottom line: bring back the focus of faithfulness to God in the midst of His blessing.
A friend of mine in Vancouver once had a prophetic moment with his church. He was leading a lesson on Kingdom treasure and had bought a bag full of golden wrapped chocolate coins. During a Sunday School class, he revealed the gold coins. Two boys, immediately, dove for the coins as if they were leaping a stage at a heavy metal concert. One boy crashed into a group of girls, causing two children to gain stitches. A mini-brawl erupted, as the class saw blood. Parents were called in; blame cast all around; and, needless to say, the lesson was lost.
My friend, the interim pastor, spoke to everyone when all was calm. He forbade them to blame the children, for this kind of extreme behavior is only something copied, they’re mimicked someone else’s attitude.
“They did everything possible to get the gold from my hands. As parents, what is your heart towards money?” he asked. My friend could get away with this because: A) He put it in the form of a question, B) He was only an interim pastor, and C) He was on to something. The church turned a corner on that day, heading more towards health than they could have expected before the brawl.
In short, my friend functioned as a Prophet.
Blessing & Faithfulness
21) Our sanctification is based upon:
A. Our efforts, our work. We are to ascend to the mountain of God, seeking Him and then He will find us. It is the result of our faithfulness.
B. God’s work, His efforts. By His Cross, we are saved. He does everything, we do nothing. Our sanctification is based entirely upon His blessing.
Why did the Kingship of David work?
Was it because he was a really great guy? Most in his time would argue that was the reason, that he was one of the “good kings”. David knew how to be the public face of Israel and wield the public ministry of his throne. Plus, even if David was a poor king, his line led to Christ: that can’t be all bad?
Or was it because God made it work? “Take not your Holy Spirit from me,” David pleads in Psalm 51:11b. David possibly knew the true source of His power was that of God, that if the blessings ended he would be just like Saul: cut off from the true authority behind the throne. David understood, unlike his ancient counter-parts, that the throne was always “on loan” from forces bigger than just the guy with the crown (This, I believe, was some of the lesson behind Absalom’s rebellion: it was God’s throne, David wasn’t going to fight to keep it). God’s throne, no one else’s? Or could it have been a mix of both? Of blessing and of faithfulness? It worked solely due to the fact that God chose to bless the throne, even though it was outside of His calling; in the same vein, David was faithful in following God (mostly) by being obedient to God as an influencer, even if that meant he embraced the ambiguity of his office residing in a sandcastle.
First, God blessed the first Kings.
He directed the anointing of the Kings (1 Samuel 9; 1 Samuel 16:1-13), giving Samuel very specific directions on how to find the future king, what to do, and when they would be placed upon the throne. The writers’ are crystal clear: this is a Divine appointment (In fact, compare the king making experiences of 1 & 2 Samuel to the future kings describes in 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles. Hardly any magic, hardly any Divine direction!).
David M. Howard Jr. is in the critical camp that “God was for kingmaking”, yet he makes a compelling case to God’s blessing of the first kings.
“A thread that runs through all the discussion of kingship and of the
effects of sin, as well as through the stories of David’s exploits, is that of God’s sovereignty. In the end, it is He who is in control of all. He gave the Philistines and the Ammonties into the hands of Samuel (1 Sam. 7:9-14), Saul (11:6), Jonathon (14:12, 15, 23), and countless times into David’s hands. His choice of David as king was backed up by His providential care over David in the face of many adversities. Indeed, the intricate details of intrigue and escape that we see when David was a fugitive-which get confusing and tedious at times-serve to show David’s rise in popularity and God’s hand of protection upon him again and again (18-30). (Howard 165)
Whether or not you agree with Israel having a king, one must side with Howard: God was blessing Samuel, Saul, and David. God seemed to be the hero no one saw in this tale, working behind the scenes and moving characters around like chess pieces, redeeming the tale of sin, corruption, and violence.
I was asked to describe a past congregation within our small, rural town. “We are a church without a single worship style or a central demographic,” I said and got a laugh…until they found out I was serious.
We I arrived, 7 years ago, we were a church of upper class, white professionals all within their early thirties. The town changed, several people left and several new people came in their place.
The result was-then- that we had White, Native, Korean, Philippine, South African, young, old, farm industry, and everything else. Our regional minister came once to speak and was floored by the change of our church and how everyone was so different from each other. He wanted an answer to how we did it, for this kind of diversity would have been helpful to other churches in our denomination.
“We don’t know what we did, but we’d like to do more of it,” was my only answer. He laughed…until he saw I was serious.
To be fair, I credit God’s blessing. Simple. The hand of God with mixing up our church came home to me one morning when a Cree (our most local Native tribe) couple led worship in our church. They sang a few of our old hymns, but in their language. Sitting in the front row, a woman who had just turned 90 sang the hymn in English with tears in her eyes.
After the service, she shared, “I have been waiting my whole life to hear Cree in a church, praising God. What a fine gift the Lord has given me.” She was right. People separate and segregate; the Lord brings together.
As well, David was faithful.
David surely heard of the ambiguity surrounding his throne, his leadership. Samuel met with him and may have informed him of the dialogue he had with God; as well, the story of Israel’s heart towards the king was told then (If not, why was it recorded in the books of Samuel in association with Saul’s kingship?).
David, more than likely, fell into doubt towards his anointing as King. His circumstances certainly suggested doubt: he was an outlaw, hunted, ascended as king, fell from grace as King, and ultimately had his throne taken from him by his son.
It cannot be forgotten: the office of king, for David, was not the thing of faithfulness for David. Instead, he was credited as being faithful to God…as king.
If David was only faithful to the throne, then he would stop being a good king when he was an outlaw or when he lost the throne. Half of his success wouldn’t be attained because he played the card “a normal king doesn’t do those kings of things”.
No, David was faithful to God while sitting on a throne. As the throne was surrounded by ambiguity, David was still clear, “I have asked one thing from the LORD; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the LORD; all the days of my life.” (Psalm 27:4).
Ambiguity concerning the throne didn’t scare David. Rather, it allowed Him to step out of the box to follow the Lord.
Earlier we spoke of the three offices: King, Priest, and Prophet. David, in following God, functioned in all three offices.
He functioned as a Priest.
When David was to bring the Ark back to Israel, they let it slip from the cart they used to carry this Holy object. This was in direct violation of God’s laws: only Levites were to carry it, not a cart pulled by oxen (Numbers 4:15, 7:9); it was to be the footstool of God not a common idol (Numbers 4:15); and the man who reached out to keep it from slipping was not a Levite priest (Numbers 7:89).
So David corrected this by having Levites carry the Ark and made sacrifices every few moments in worship to God. David led the worship, which is something only a priest could do. He did so wearing nothing but a linen ephod (something of a priest’s uniform, Exodus 28:6, 1 Samuel 2:18, 22:18). He danced with all of his might, but did not get in trouble with the LORD. God struck down Uzzah for trying to “save” the Ark in violation of the priestly laws, but not David dancing, worshiping as a non-Levite priest.
Why? “I was dancing before the LORD who chose me over you father…I will celebrate before the LORD,” David said in 2 Samuel 6:21a, c. His heart was in violation of God, but his office might have been. God didn’t care if David functioned as priest for a day; in fact,
He blessed it.
David functioned as a prophet.
From bringing the Ark back to Israel, the next chapter describes a conversation
David has with Nathan, the prophet. David feels as though the Ark needs a home, a house like the pagan temples that the rest of the kingdoms have. Once again, David falls into the trap of Israel: why can’t we be like everyone else? He purposes to build a temple (2 Samuel 7:1-3) but is interrupted by the message from Nathan, the prophet, of God (7:4-17). God tells him of a better, greater temple to be built: the LORD shall make a house with you (7:11).
This certainly can be seen as an endorsement of the kingship: the eternal reign of Israel’s king! The original audience certainly would have gleaned this (If, of course, this was written during the pre-exilic period of Israel when they still had a king!) and would have left alone any other interpretations.
But isn’t the eternal reign of the king Christ? Could not this is what the promise, ultimately, is suggesting? Israel did not have an eternal reign as king, but Christ did come from the seed of David and reigns eternally. Couldn’t a more far reaching meaning of this be of Christ, not just the then contemporary reading of God finally coming to terms with Israel’s king?
From this promise delivered by Nathan, David launches into a Psalm. And as a Psalmist, David exists as a prophet. Through song and poetry, he challenges the imagination of his people, causing them to see that God is the true ruler and not the king (7:22); that God is eternal and Israel’s throne rules only a sandcastle (7:25-29); and that the king is merely a steward, someone insignificant in comparison to God (7:18-21).
As a king, David could not legislate faithfulness; as a prophet, through the Psalms, David could inspire such faithfulness.
Yes, his throne was always in question and surrounded by ambiguity: but David took hold of what was certain (his faith in the LORD) and led Israel organically as well as institutionally.
The church is changing; the role of the pastor is in flux. In regards to the Missional movement of churches, Reggie McNeal writes, “New expressions of the church are emerging. One pastor has left his steeple tall church to organize a simple neighborhood gathering of spiritual pilgrims. He is working at secular employment so that he doesn’t have to collect monies to support a salary…A church planter has an established church to serve as the organic church leader network…Individual Jesus followers are also increasingly unwilling to limit their spiritual lives to church involvement.” (McNeal 2)
The world is changing, the church is changing, and the office of the pastor is changing.
The late Mike Yaconnelli once had a quote that best described pastoral ministry in the 21st Century. His intention was to speak about faith, but I think he hit the nail on the head for the ambiguity of the “throne of the pastor” as the church changes. “Messy Spirituality is the scandalous assertion that following Christ is anything but tidy and neat, balanced and orderly. Far from it. Spirituality is complex, complicated, and perplexing-the disorderly, sloppy, chaotic look of authentic faith in the real world. Spirituality is anything but a straight line; it is mixed-up, topsy-turvy, helter-skelter godliness that turns our lives into an upside-down toboggan ride full of unexpected turns, surprise bumps, and bone-shattering crashes. In other words, messy spirituality is the delirious consequences of a life ruined by Jesus who will us right into His arms.” (Yaconelli 17)
Our present society of North America has moved into a Post-Christendom, Post-Modern world concerning faith, spirituality. There seems to be little the church can do programmatically to attract the un-churched into the doors of her institution. Equally, little the church can do systemically to impact the neighborhood which surrounds it’s building.
This wasn’t always the case. Old towns in Canada still have all roads leading to the church. The Pastor’s job was simply to perfect the institution and the community would come.
Now, what is a pastor to do? Will the church exist in the 21st Century as it did in the 20th century? Most likely, no. Then what will it look like? What are the kinds of thing a pastor must do to serve a community that is Post-Christian whilst serving Christians in, well, Christendom?
Suffice to say, there is ambiguity around the office of the pastor, much like there was ambiguity around David’s throne. And the church of Christendom, the church that was defined by programmatic success shifts, so do the grains of the sandcastle ruled by pastors of yesteryear.
How does one navigate through the shifting sand?
Be like King David. He did not exist to maintain his office or to behave like other kings. Rather, in cooperation between God’s blessing and his faithfulness allowed him a series of adventures through which he functioned as a king, a prophet, and a priest.
“I’m a pastor, I don’t do…” This line can no longer work, as the role of the pastor radically changes. As well, would we have received the Psalms or would Israel have gained the Ark if David held to his exclusively to his role as King?
Faithfulness and God’s blessing: this now is the axiom for the pastor’s role, not the established expectation from the office.
When I was a youth pastor in Southern California, I was not allowed on the campuses of a nearby High School. The secretary, by orders from the school board, insisted on a “separation of church and state”. This was difficult to then reach the community, for many of the young people were locked in a campus, seemingly, unreachable by our church.
I then was surprised, this past year, when our local state run Catholic school called my office, wondering if I’d be interested serving free breakfasts to their students. They knew I was a pastor and they I would possibly “get religious”, but they needed help. A grant of the Canadian government saw to it that every student would be offered a free, warm meal before school and they needed someone from the community to help.
An invitation to the rest of the pastors of our town extended, no one else accepted at that time (reasons varied). So myself along with our church’s finance clerk decided to give out breakfasts, once a week, to the teens of our town.
This went on for the whole school year. At the tail end, one of the local priests joined our breakfast group (A HUGE step for him, coming from Nigeria where priests would be respected, honored, and got breakfasts served to them, not the other way around. I truly respect this priest, able to put aside his past and be a part of this program).
A few weeks ago, one of the “regulars” saw me near our church’s float in the rodeo parade. “You mean you have a job outside of serving breakfast?” he asked and I told him I was a pastor.
“Ever consider that serving your breakfast was part of my job as a pastor?”
At best, I confused him. He walked away, wondering what took place and why I got weird when things were going in a perfectly normal direction.
Still, I was encouraged. This young man would not have come to our church because the power of my sermons or the strength of our doctrines. No, he knew me because of breakfast. Suddenly, it was a honour: an honour only reached if I stopped being a pastor and be faithful that some how God was in the blessing business through breakfasts at school.
Pastoral leadership that marries the organic with the institutional, the prophetic with the priestly, the faithfulness of the individual with the blessings of God, and willing to jump from adventure to adventure is the calling of the 21st church, otherwise it shall indeed become a sandcastle.
• Alter, Robert. The Five Books of Moses. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2004.
• Gaeblein, Frank E., Ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol.3. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Press, 1992.
• Hoerth, Alfred J.. Archeology & The Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.
• Howard Jr., David M.. An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993.
• Keil, C.F. & F. Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol. 2. Peobody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1866.
• McNeal, Reggie. Missional Renaissance. San Francisco: Josey-Bass Publications, 2009.
• Orr, James, ed.. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1930.
• Walvoord, John F. & Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1985.
• Yaconelli, Michael. Messy Spirituality. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2002.