Phil's out of pocket for couple of days as he finishes up a project at work, and while he says he has a hamper full of stuff he could post, he's willing to admit that when he does post, he is addicted to the comments thread. Who isn't, really?
But that said, or confessed, I'm filling in today for a brief post.
I'm reading the pastoral letters of Paul with my Community Life group, and we're talking about the parallels between 1 Tim and Titus right now. What I like about these two letters together is that they show us a different perspective on the church than the "church" letters like Ephesians, Galatians, 1+2 Corinthians and so on. Those other letter show us how the church -- all the people in the church, all the called-out-ones -- should view itself. The pastorals show us how a pastor or elder should view the church.
That seems like a pretty big "duh", I am sure. They are, after all, the "pastorals" -- they are written from Paul to his pastoral disciples whom he calls (in one way or another) his true children in the faith. But one of the things Paul makes clear is that a pastor has different concerns for the church than Manny Baptist or Moe Presbyterian because he is gifted in a different way than they are.
This is the important part of this brief blog post, so pay attention.
See: Paul's not shy to say that it takes many gifts to have a body which is growing up in maturity, right? or that the church will never stop the process of growing up in maturity until Christ returns and we are made like him, yes? Many gifts -- one spirit. But when he lines out the qualifications for elders in the church (both to Titus and to Timothy), he makes it clear that along with character an elder/overseer must have the gift of teaching.
Elders are not the welcoming committee; they aren't the ones who necessarily are the first ones to meet people in the church. But they are the ones who are willing and able to teach what is right and to identify and rebuke false teaching. Their perspective on the church ought to be that they are guiding all the other gifted people to mutual maturity, and that those who are not going to be guided in and up need to be guided (quickly, clearly, with gusto) out.
It's pretty striking how Paul doesn't say, "you know: it's a journey and we're all sort of screwed up, so who's to say if we're making a mistake about this doctrine or that one. Be kind to your web footed friends, for a duck may be somebody's, um, pastor?" He says instead that those who stray from the teaching are making a shipwreck of their faith.
That is the definition of pastoral concern: keeping people off the rocks which will leave them shipwrecked. Let's be thankful today that there are still men today who are gifted by God to still think of the church in this way.