No, indeed we are not. We are simply sinful human beings subject to frailty, temptation, disappointment and failure. The urges of the flesh can overtake us…and they do. And just when we think that we’ve overcome temptation over our vices, we succumb to subjugation by our virtues. In this sense we are not “super” Christians. Indeed, in this manner we are no different than our hearers.
Sometimes I wonder whether those who deem themselves “super” Christians do the greatest disservice to the Office of the Ministry. Whether lay or clergy, super Christians have one thing in common: a rejection of the fundamental essence of Christianity, i.e. God’s unmerited and undeserved grace. Consequently, they believe that what they are is not entirely because of God’s calling of grace–but because of their own “super” works.
Every “super” Christian is a distinct danger to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and, indeed, to Jesus Christ Himself. Whether Pastor or parishioner, such individuals subordinate Jesus Christ, His message, and those who are properly called to their own whims, impulses and desires.
Pastors: Merely Super Sinners!
Pastors are not super Christians. Like St. Paul, we are simply “chief of all sinners.” We share in the same sinfulness and contamination of our human nature as everyone else. We are, of all God’s people, likely the ones who are most aware of our sinful nature. More often than we care to admit, what we habitually want to do we habitually do not do.
We are acutely aware of the battle against Satan that rages within our hearts, minds and souls. We are also painfully and personally aware that when God gave ordained pastors their calling to the highest Office in the Church, the Office of the Ministry, He gave this calling to simple earthen vessels–weak, fragile, and apt to be broken–like us.
To balance the awareness of the pastor’s essential frailty, the pastor’s other greatest awareness must be the awareness of the comprehensiveness of God’s gracious, undeserved love…
Whenever we do what we do not want to do,
Whenever we are scarred and beaten in the battle of our hearts and our churches, and
Whenever the earthen vessel into which God has poured the calling to the ministry begins to break in the most painful ways possible.
When all else fails and the world around us crumbles, the only thing we really have left is what we sometimes forget first: the connectedness which God has made with us through Word and Sacrament. This grace-connectedness affirms that though we are sinners, we are also saints. As the Luther said, we are simul iustus et peccator, i.e. at the same time saints and sinners, enfolded in grace but still enshrouded in sin.
What Is A Super Pastor Really?
When all is said and done, the “super” pastor is not necessarily the one with the largest church, the most vibrant program, the largest Bible Class, budget or building program.. Nor is the “super” pastor necessarily the one with the most impressive resume, the most conversions, etc.
Pastoral resumes are made and undone…daily. Pastoral achievements are joyously realized and painfully lost…daily. Churches grow and decline….daily. People join one church, only to quit to join another one…daily…sometimes in droves…from your church!!
If pastors or congregations use these worldly things to describe the “super” pastor, they must be forewarned that this foundation is woefully tentative, temporal, and uncertain. If such things as these are your definition of successful ministry all one can say is, “Watch Out!” At best this definition is not healthy. At worst it’s crassly unspiritual and contrary to God’s will for both pastor and church.
When such criteria are consciously or unconsciously used as your motivation and standard for ministry–even if you only use it to the most miniscule, subtle and covert degree possible–you are setting yourself up as a bulls eye on Satan’s target for your soul. A word to the wise: change the motivation for your ministry yourself. Either you change it or God will change it for you.
Either way will be painful. But either way, God will be with you. As He transforms the inner motivation for your ministry from an external law-driven-ness to an inner Gospel-motivation, the result will be an unshakable joy of ministry not rooted are in those things which can discourage and destroy us.
Look At The Super Pastor’s Feet!
What is a “super” pastor? Simply one who, in spite of the conflict, disappointment, frustration and anger–and the accolades, praise and success–never, ever loses sight of the most important thing: a vital connectedness with God. This connectedness is based in the certainty that in spite of the fragile weakness of this earthen vessel which we call “Pastor,” God has nevertheless promised and commanded to bear His Word through it.
Whatever the condition of “super” pastor–broken or unbroken, celebrated or collapsed–and whatever the condition of the church–growing or dying, unified or schizoid, enthusiastic or disheartened–the affirmation of God’s calling remains. Isaiah wrote, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good tidings…” (Isaiah 52:7 NIV).
That is what makes any pastor a “super” pastor. Beautiful feet. No matter where God leads those feet, and no matter what they experience, those feet remain beautiful because they singular mark of a “super” pastor: they proclaim the Gospel. No matter what the circumstances, in season or out, the “super” pastor continues to preach the Word wherever God leads those awesome, beautiful feet.
In spite of the opposition, the lack of response, and the antagonism, the “super” pastor persists in ministry, perseveres in trial and, even when weak from resistance, still preaches and teaches the beautiful, confident hope of salvation, peace and forgiveness in Christ.
Are You A “Super” Pastor?
Are you a “super” pastor? It’s easy to tell if you are. Don’t look around you. Don’t look at your church. Don’t look at your leaders. Don’t look at your antagonists. Don’t look at your church’s problems or successes. Don’t even look at yourself in the mirror.
Just look at your feet…those beautiful, beautiful feet! Do they still lead you where God has called you to preach…regardless of the response? Do they still bear the Gospel fearlessly, persistently and in the confidence of the Spirit’s power?
Ah, yes! Look at those feet–your feet–those beautiful, beautiful Gospel-bearing feet! Follow them where God leads them and proclaim to your hearers the message God has given to you, “Your God reigns!” After all, He does, doesn’t He? Indeed, He does!!!
Thomas F. Fischer
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