I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
So I had the pleasure the last few days to catch up with my old friend Scott and we discussed quite a bit about the state of affairs in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, and most pointedly that curious creature known as the American pastor. Now Scott is a man I trust and whose opinion I greatly value and he helped me to piece together a few things that I had been struggling with for a while. As part of this increasing clarity I began to think about Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken.”
One of the greatest compliments I get is when someone says, “You know, you don’t look like a pastor!” Now while I take some sort of selfish joy in not fitting into the mold of the average Lutheran pastor I have begun to really wonder if I do fit in at all. It seems that in the church, much like our political system, there is a desire to place everyone in one of two camps. The typical titles of “conservative” and “liberal” have always been used but today they have more seductive counterparts.
The confessional, high-churchy types:
And the missional, relevant types:
Now I’m not writing about what form of worship is best or even about my personal preferences, the issue is that these two ways seems to be the two defining paths that have developed in our church body over the years. And when you go to a gathering of other Lutherans everyone is always trying to figure out which path you’ve taken, which camp you fit in and which party you belong to.
What I’ve started to see for myself is that this all has a lot to do with how I understand my own vocation as a pastor. Do I see myself primarily as a steward of the mysteries of God and keeper of the traditions, or as a counselor and servant intent on bettering the lives of those I’ve come to serve. Which path do I take, and for that matter if I was to follow Frost’s advice which is the path least taken?
So I have begun to realize that perhaps I just don’t fit in, my normal reaction to the choice of the two paths is to say, “Screw that!” You see at the end of the day I have come to understand my vocation as a pastor to be that of a preacher. This then becomes the focus of my energy despite where the path might go. The preacher goes with the Word to proclaim life to the dying; he must never hide behind the smells and bells or the creative PowerPoint slides.
At the seminary we had classes titled “Pastor as Teacher,” and “Pastor as Counselor” but perhaps we need to reemphasize “Pastor as Preacher.”