The Holy Ministry has changed over the last hundred years. No, not the Word and Sacrament part, but just about everything else: hymnals in the pews, language, electronic organs, bulletins, cars, telephones, computers, sound systems, boards and meetings.
Yes, boards and meetings. A hundred years ago or more there were almost no boards or committees in churches. In American Lutheranism in general, you had a voters’ assembly, and probably a group of laymen who were considered the leaders of the congregation. Eventually they came to be called elders (originally another term for pastors). There may have been officers (congregational president, treasurer, etc.), but that was about the extent of it. So the thought of having boards with regular meetings was almost nonexistent, and certainly would not have been on the radar (another “new” invention) of how pastors spent their time.
Today it is a different picture. Congregations have boards and committees for many things, and meetings usually follow suit. Now to be fair, most jobs today have meetings, and I haven’t met anyone who ever woke up thinking, “YEAH! I get to go to a meeting today!” It does, however, create an interesting time question for pastors. Where do meetings and boards fit into the Ministry, and what is my role at these meetings and boards?
In order to answer that question, we have to answer the question of what role a pastor plays in the congregation as a whole. As we discussed last month (in The Pastor and the Congregation), the pastor is a shepherd, a steward, and an ambassador for the Master. He has no authority in and of himself, but can only speak on behalf of the One whom He serves.
So what role does the pastor play then?
In boards and meetings, the pastor is there in order to bring the Word of God to bear upon whatever is at hand. Every time a congregation gathers, whether it be for the Divine Service or a meeting, there should be prayer and meditation upon God’s Word. Sometimes there is more than other times, but it must always be there. If it isn’t there, then the pastor is not fulfilling his vocation, and the Church is not being the Church. Everything we say and do should be centered on Christ and the Gospel.
So I suppose you could also say that the pastor is the conscience of the Gospel at meetings. It is his job to see to it that whatever the endeavor is that the congregation undertakes, that it is done in faith and for the sake of the Gospel. It is very easy for congregations to lose track of that focus, to become distracted by other things (see Luke 10:40), or to allow unbelief and fear to make decisions that are not in keeping with the faith.
I don’t write this to imply that the pastor is above the congregation in any way. Far from it. We are all weak and easily distracted, and it requires constant vigilance on everyone’s part to remember who we are and what we are here for. In the military they often speak of “mission creep,” that is, secondary matters that can easily take over the purpose of a mission. Our mission is to proclaim the Gospel. It’s that simple. The devil, the world, and our sinful nature want us to be distracted from that at every turn. But God, who is rich in mercy, will keep us steadfast in the faith until the end.
So the pastor is there for meetings and boards. He is there to keep the focus on Jesus. May it ever be so among us.
Your servant in Christ,
(from the February 2008 Messiah’s Messenger)