Two Ways

What do you say to a parishioner when you find out that he or she is caught up in some sin? I am constantly asking myself this question, as I rehearse conversations in my mind over and over, trying to think of the best thing to say to someone. I wish sometimes I could just shut my brain off for a while (I guess there is a way to do this, but I also have to get up in the morning…). Today as I was thinking through scenarios and conversations, I thought of something very simple and straightforward that a pastor could say in just about any circumstances. It is based on the “Two Ways” of the Didache. It is assumed that the individual is baptized, and a confirmed member of the church, so I don’t think that this is out of bounds, theologically speaking. Here is what you can say:

Look, Mr./Mrs. ________, the way I see it there are two ways that you can go, two paths from which you can choose. The first is the way of the devil, the way of unrepentance, of darkness, sin, and ultimately death. This is the path you are currently on, and if you continue on it, then you will find yourself cast out of the kingdom of God on the last day. (One can add certain applicable Scripture passages here). Consider (Cain/David/pick your OT or NT figure) and the end which came to him. This is what will happen if you continue on this path.

The second is the way of Christ, the way of repentance, of turning from sin, of forgiveness and a free and clear conscience before God. It is the way of life, and those who follow it will rise to everlasting life on the last day. There are many examples in Holy Scripture of those who were in the same position you are, guilty before God, and yet they repented of their sins, trusted in God’s mercy, cast the works of darkness behind them, and found life in God. (use some example from Scripture). This way was opened up by Christ, who suffered and died for your sins, and who even now invites you to put those things behind you and live as a baptized child of God.

Which way sounds the most appealing to you?”

I think that pretty much puts things in perspective. Of course, the way these things are thought out never actually goes the way you plan. But it is good to at least have some plan, something that you want to say to the person(s). What is interesting is that you can apply it to just about any sin/vice. When speaking to a person who refuses to come to church, you can certainly put it to them in that way.

What methods have been most helpful for you other pastors out there?

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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 Two Ways

  1. Weedon says:

    Paul,

    One thing I think is very important to help our parishioners understand is that God hates sin so very much because of the damage that sin does to the sinner. It’s not merely “breaking a rule” that is arbitrary – like going 56 mph in a 55 zone – it is more like saying you don’t believe in the law of gravity and jumping from the Empire State Building. Might have fun for a while, but the end result isn’t pretty. It’s deadly damaging and that’s what SIN does to us. Just another thought to add to your perceptive and helpful post.

  2. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Weedon, I hear ya. Even in the family, the rules we impose on our children are for their benefit–so that they can enjoy the best possible relationship with us and with each other. Good point.

    My problem is, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, is that I go into these meetings with people relying too much on my own wisdom, my own questions rather than simply relying on the Word of God to be the guide. Surely the devil would like to divert our attention from the Spirit-filled Word of God and how often he succeeds! One thing I need to remember is that my duty as a Shepherd and watchman is to declare. It is to be a herald, a messenger of God’s Word in every situation, whether that word is a word of divine law and judgment against sin, or a word of divine pardon and redemption in Jesus. Aside from speaking this Word to a person, that is really all we can do. The Holy Spirit must do the rest. And we musn’t ever forget that “the Word of God is living and active.” It “will accomplish the thing for which I send it.” I need to trust more firmly in the power of God’s word to change hearts and minds, and to turn people from sin and not my own cleverness or skill.

  3. Kress says:

    Paul,

    In reading your two recent posts, I struggle also with what I am called to do and how to go about doing it in a loving, yet firm manner. The words from Ezekiel resonate in my mind and heart. I am an unworthy sinner ministering to other sinners.

    One question I have been using to cut to the chase when speaking to deliquents is as follows: “So, Mr/Mrs _______ what is preventing you from coming back to church?”

    The question doesn’t appear to be too alarming to the impenitent, but you should rehearse, as you do (as I do often as well), and be prepared for their response(s). We can’t stop at asking the question. However good or poor it may appear. We must be ready and prepared for their response(s). We musn’t be alarmed by their responses. They are answering the question. Question is: “How do we respond?”

    Obviously, situations will vary one from another. But, deliquents don’t all share the same excuses for not going to church. However, they all share the same sinful nature each of us have been born.

    In my experience, I received honest answers. Not always the one I expected or prepared to answer, but I have always received an answer.

    There hasn’t been much to say about the result of asking such a question. People still remain away from God’s house. I think your ‘Two Ways’ approach may become my next action with them.

    I will address this before the Board of Elders.

    Thanks again, Paul for your comments.

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