More to the Ministry than Sermons

This is slightly related to a previous post in which I wrote about the need for us pastors to act like we hold the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and actually use them to bind and loose sins. Chemnitz in the same book that I mentioned earlier talks about the binding and loosing of sins in both a general and an individual sense. Sins are bound in general when through preaching they are rebuked and repentance is preached. They are loosed in a general way when the Gospel is preached, when the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to all. But, as Chemnitz notes, the general application is sometimes not enough for someone whose heart is hard and does not hear the Law applying to himself, or in the case of the loosing key, someone who still concludes that there is another verdict awaiting him in heaven other than the one that he just heard in the sermon. For these, Chemnitz says, the binding and loosing keys must be applied in an individual way, so as to bring about the desired effect. The unrepentant sinner must have his sins brought before his eyes in such a way that he cannot but conclude that this word is applying to him. And through the individual application of the loosing key, the frightened sinner must be told that his forgiveness is just as valid in heaven also before God.

All of this is to say that our job is not done when we have merely preached a decent sermon and administered Holy Communion. There is a need to approach individuals who have fallen away, or who are still not certain of their forgiveness, and to preach to them in an individual way. I have been able to to this to some extent, but not as much as I would like. Here is the challenge, and no doubt everyone has grappled with this: it is so difficult to find people at home, difficult to find a good time to approach people, because usually this has to be done in the evenings or on weekends. A pastor’s family has to be flexible in this regard I think, realizing that his “hours” might not be completely normal, that he may have to run out to someone’s house on a Sunday afternoon, or a Saturday morning, or evening a weekday evening to bring the word of repentance or the word of forgiveness to them, or both depending on the situation. The bottom line is that there is more to the Ministry than Sunday sermons. Any suggestions or advice on when or how to approach people who need to have the Law or the Gospel applied to them individually?

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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3 Responses to More to the Ministry than Sermons

  1. Whatever you do, don’t use e-mail to call someone to repentance. I’d use the phone if you’re being gentle with them. But if you have to set forth the law in its sternness, then it’s best to do it in person.

  2. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Good points. I have found too that writing letters doesn’t accomplish anything except making the person mad as a hornet. And then there is no way to have a conversation with them. I think that one of the unique challenges of the Ministry here is that over the years people have been permitted to persist in their breaking of the 3rd commandment. This only encourages others to do the same.

  3. Rev. Tom Fast says:

    Paul,

    I’ve been on a blog commenting bender the past couple of days and I’ve promised myself to go cold turkey after this comment. So please do me a favor. If you see me comment on any blog anytime during the next month, tell me to shut the heck up already!

    I don’t have much to offer re: making calls on delinquents per se. But in regard to individual pastoral care, the most important thing I’ve learned (in addition to PCA), and am still learning, is to listen.

    A little story. About my third year in the Ministry I took a class at St. Louis with Ken Korby on Holy Absolution. The first day or so of the class, Korby sat down with each of us individually and asked us why we took the class. When he came to me, I began to relate to him the fact that when folks came in my study to speak to me I never really knew what to say. I went on to relate a recent experience where a woman came in to ask for help in a troubled marriage. She was afraid it was falling apart. And I didn’t know what to say to help her. I told Korby I was hoping that this class would help me with these kinds of problems. He responded, not even letting me finish: “Good God, man. Jesus forgives you.”

    That was a formative moment for me. In fact, I believe that was the first time anyone had ever “gospeled” (sorry, I couldn’t resist using that word) me outside of the Divine Service. At first I was stunned. I thought “what the heck is this guy all about?” Then I began to realize what Korby had seen quite clearly—I was riddled with guilt and was making a subtle confession of sin. Korby listened carefully to what I said, recognized it for what it was, and absolved me. He knew me better than I knew me. That was both instructive and incredibly liberating for me. I’ve given a great deal of thought about it over the years. As you can see, it still stands out in my mind seventeen years later. Frankly, I crave that kind of fellowship with other pastors and christians. That’s one of the things I most loved about Ken Korby. His classroom teaching was great. But even better was the way he was always providing Care for those around him in sucha way. He reminded me of Aslan—not safe, but good. 🙂

    Now, up to that time, whenever I heard professors or other pastors encourage me to “listen” to my parishioners, I assumed it was simply so people would think I was some kind of a compassionate and likeable guy. So I never paid much attention to the art of listening. But that’s not the kind of listening I’m talking about here. One of the first things a physician does when you visit is to pull out his stethoscope and listen—listen carefully to your heart. That’s what I’m encouraging you to do. Jesus says that whatever is in the human heart you cannot see with anything other than your ears. IOW, you have to listen. What’s in the heart will ultimately come out of the mouth. So if you want to know about your parishioners fears, loves, and trusts, then listen. Listen when you are in even casual conversation. Listen for their fears. Listen to find out what they are placing their trust in and where they are finding their hope. Listen for brokenness and confessions—which are legion, I’m telling you. Listen for false trusts. Listen for all that first commandment stuff. That will help you to properly divide the Word of Truth. After you have listened, then be bold to speak whatever it is that is needed for their healing—law,gospel, or both. (A good place to begin to practice this art is within your biological family. You owe it to them, anyway.)

    I think I remember you blogging some time back about not knowing what to say to folks. I really don’t think that is much of a problem for most of us, with rare exception. The problem is in our listening. Once the diagnosis is clear, the course of treatment is, too. At least that’s been my experience whenever I’m thinking clearly enough to do all of this.

    I’m just getting started. But since this is your blog and I don’t want to bore you further, I’ll cease and desist.

    BTW, I am writing this at 10PM. I refuse to be held responsible for anything I write after 7PM. I’m getting old and tired. So I hope this made some sense and is in some way helpful.

    Pax

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