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Thursday, June 25, 2015

You’re Not Fit For the Ministry!

I'm not fit for the ministry? YOU'RE NOT FIT FOR THE MINISTRY!

I remember some years ago - there I was, in Seminary sitting in a class that was dealing with the Holy Ministry and coming to the realization “HOLY CRAP, I AM NOT FIT FOR THE MINISTRY!  I’M HOSED!”

Why would I say that?  Because I read this…

            “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer (Pastor), he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer (Pastor) must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”  (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)

Well, I could maybe muster up one or two of these things at a time, but when I consider the state of my heart, I am out of luck. 

Above Reproach?  Really? Reproach – disapproval or rebuke.  Very few people have approved of me and my life.  Heck, I know my own thoughts and deeds, NOT EVEN I APPROVE! 

Husband of one wife, whew, not married to multiple wives, so I thought that I had that one down… except that lust!  What’s up with that?  I am an adulterer in my heart, which God knows and sees!  HOSED AGAIN!

Sober minded, well, I am not a big drinker, but I sure am a goofball!   Dang, even if I’m not drunk, my mind isn’t of the most sober and serious sort.  Man!  I can’t catch a break!

Self-Controlled – Fugetaboutit! I am an emotional, flailing maniac, given to emotions and impulsive thinking.  I often speak before I think, I am overweight and I love to eat what is not good for me.  I am not self-controlled. 

Respectable?  Next!  I am a disaster!

Hospitable, on some days one might call me hospitable. 

Able to teach?  Yeah, I do okay teaching, when I am not too lazy to prepare and study for a class.  Sadly, there are too many other things going on to actually do this on most days.

Not a Drunkard.  Finally, I am not a very big drinker in general.  Wow, I have one! 

Then we get to this one – “not violent, but gentle.”  I LOVED to play rugby to tackle my opponent - hard!  I love a good scrum where people are about to die from the sheer pressure being exerted on them, the clash of eight men on each side smashing into one another and pushing with all their might against the other side.  I love to watch boxing and UFC, I love to shoot guns and watch anything that goes BOOM!  Heck, I just sometimes love shouting “BOOM!” for no good reason! I’m not the most peaceful person. 

Not Quarrelsome – HA! I’m Italian!  Arguing is more than an art, it is a way of life!   

Not a lover of money.  I tend to be generous by nature, but my dream job has always been to be a “retired billionaire.”  I like money, I have a little, I would like more. 

Need I go on?   I’m not fit for the ministry by the definition given in 1Timothy 3, neither are you. 

One of the things that has made me truly sad is seeing those in the office of the ministry who believe that they are fit for the office of the Holy Ministry, gloat and prance around at the failings of others.   They smugly state that not only is this man or that man not fit for the ministry, and everything that he has ever written or may write in the future is null and void.  It seems that according to some, anyone who has fallen into disgrace no longer has anything of value to offer and is now incapable of declaring the love and mercies of Christ.    

So here it is, the book of Psalms… all the parts by David – null, he committed adultery and had a guy rubbed out.   Pauline epistles, well he was a guy who persecuted the church, but at least he didn’t commit adultery (at least as far as we know), so maybe murderers are okay, but not adulterers.  Judges… yeah, those guys were messed up.  Abraham, passed off his wife to another man not just once, but twice!  His nick name should have been “Huggy Bear” (see Starsky and Hutch if you didn’t get that).  Of course in a modern context, being a gossip who rejoices in seeing someone with more status than you fall is also perfectly acceptable.  So in all reality, not cheating on your wife or embezzling from the church seems to be the true qualification for the ministry. 

Now, before anyone starts carrying on about how I am saying that adultery or theft is not a big deal and that pastors who do it should not step down from the ministry, IT IS, AND THEY SHOULD… at least for a time.  This is not to say that there is no grace for them nor is it to say that there is no hope that one day, they may be restored, if it is the Lord’s will. 

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

“So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
(Luke 15:1-7 ESV)

Can we not rejoice when one repents?  Must there be gloating and pontificating?  Can’t we just sit with Job in silence and mourn the sin that has wrecked the whole world?  Can’t we lament our sin along with the sin of others?   Can’t we just speak of the grace and mercies of Christ with one another, especially when they are hurting so deeply?  Would you not ask for the same if you were in such a spot? 

We who confess our sins to be what they are, are they not to be met with the Grace of Christ in even greater measure?  I thought that is what “ministers of the Gospel” are called to do, forgive sins.  Then again, they aren’t fit for the ministry either for in and of ourselves, no one is. 

I think that Martin Luther seemed to approach the office with the proper attitude of fear and humility.  One of his “Sacristy Prayers” reads:
“Lord God, You have appointed me as a Bishop and Pastor in Your Church, but
you see how unsuited I am to meet so great and difficult a task. If I had
lacked Your help, I would have ruined everything long ago. Therefore, I
call upon You: I wish to devote my mouth and my heart to you; I shall
teach the people. I myself will learn and ponder diligently upon You Word.
Use me as Your instrument -- but do not forsake me, for if ever I should
be on my own, I would easily wreck it all.”

It is called “the Holy Ministry” because it is Christ’s for He alone is Holy and He alone is worthy.  Let us all confess our sins and even more confess our Savior. 

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  1. I have largely given up on ever returning to ministry. Churches can't get past the whole "husband of one wife," doesn't mean that you have divorced and re-married.

    1. I've known churches that have. I know many more divorced and re-married pastors that haven't. Sad, but it is ingrained into LCMS culture badly. But when it all hit the fan in my last congregation I meant to stand down and even my detractors said, pastor, you're crazy if you think that disqualifies you from this office. I'm glad I listened to them.

  2. How is it going now, blessings