The Pastor as Harmless as the Court Jester

But when I observe the way the vocation of pastor is lived out in America and listen to the tone and context in which the word pastor is spoken, I realize that what I hear in the word and what others hear is very different. In general usage, the noun is weak, defined by parody and diluted by opportunism. The need for strengthening adjectives is critical.

I find I have to exercise this adjectival rehabilitation constantly, redefining by refusing the definitions of pastor that the culture hands me, and reformulating my life with the insights and images of Scripture. The culture treats me so amiably! It encourages me to maintain my orthodox creed; it commends me for my evangelical practice; it praises me for my singular devotion. All it asks is that I accept its definition of my work as an encourager of the culture’s good will, as the priest who will sprinkle holy water on the culture’s good intentions. Many of these people are my friends. None, that I am aware of, is consciously malign.

But if I, even for a moment, accept my culture’s definition of me, I am rendered harmless. I can denounce evil and stupidity all I wish and will be tolerated in my denunciations as a court jester is tolerated. I can organize their splendid goodwill and they will let me do it, since it is only for weekends.

Peterson, E. H. (1989). The contemplative pastor: returning to the art of spiritual direction  (Vol. 17, pp. 23–24). Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub.

© 2014, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.


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