“As for the prophets who lead my people astray, they proclaim ‘peace’ if they have something to eat, but prepare to wage war against anyone who refuses to feed them. 6 Therefore night will come over you, without visions, and darkness, without divination. The sun will set for the prophets, and the day will go dark for them. 7 The seers will be ashamed and the diviners disgraced. They will all cover their faces because there is no answer from God. ” Micah 3:5-7
This passage from Micah has something to say to us about pastoral authority. And so does professional baseball.
They say that, among the various professional sports skills, hitting a major league baseball pitch may be the most difficult. I’ll buy that. And as far as I’m concerned, nobody practices that skill any better than Josh Hamilton. I honestly think he has maybe the sweetest swing in baseball. Last year, his four-home-run performance against the Orioles became just another illustration (just to put that in perspective, that has only been done 16 times in all of MLB history…that makes it even more rare than pitching a perfect game). But let’s be clear about those home-runs. They do not happen because of Hamilton’s amazing backstory, and they do not happen because of his title or his position as a major league player, and they do not happen because he has somehow earned the respect of his team mates or of opposing players. Those home-runs happen because of many long hours of perfecting a swing and then repeating that swing perfectly under a variety of circumstances. It is about sticking radically to that perfection and not wavering from it even a little bit. When Hamilton does that, when he sticks …
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Isaiah 6:8-10
Believe me when I tell you there are parts of my work as an attorney which I do not like. Likewise, there are parts of my work as a church mediator which are hard and not very rewarding. Likewise, there are parts of my various assignments as a church leader which I would definitely rather not do…things I definitely do not feel “gifted” to do, but which my leadership requires nonetheless.
Isaiah’s calling was almost certainly not to do something he enjoyed doing. It was a calling to do a very hard thing…for over forty years…with practically no visible return whatsoever.
So, I hope my pastor friends will understand when I tend to look with some skepticism at their desire to just do the part of pastoring which they enjoy doing. Some would like to just focus on the preaching and teaching without having to bother with the “pastoral care” parts. Others would like to focus on the administrative aspects without having to do so much preaching and teaching. Still others could be content just doing hospital visits all day long and never having to attend another insufferable committee meeting.
Shepherding God’s people includes all of those things. You don’t have to be good at all of them…but you do have to do all of them. If you don’t feel called to visit sick people and to counsel grieving people…you probably are not called …
Do you remember stereograms? Google it, you’ll remember. I can still recall walking through the mall and seeing people standing in groups staring at these posters and marveling. I would go and stand with them and look at the poster, and all I could see was a bunch of squiggly lines. They would keep talking about the picture that “jumps out at you” if you stare at it long enough. I still didn’t get it. Then they would give you these complicated instructions, trying to help you see it…something about relaxing your eyes and looking through the poster. That only made me feel more incompetent. After a while, the person selling the posters would console me by saying, “Well, some people just never see it.” Oh, thank you. Now I feel much better.
Apparently, it is a fact of life. Some of us have brains designed to easily see the hidden pictures in stereograms, while others of us, well, cannot. I am o.k. with that.
It is like that in the church as well. Even after we get all of the pieces to to the puzzle that is God’s will put out on the table, and after we get them all connected as they should be, there are still plenty of us who look at the picture and say, “I don’t get it…what is it?” This, I believe, is where true pastoral vision comes into play. I believe God has gifted those He calls as pastors with the ability to cast their gaze across the landscape of a congregation and see God at work in the lives of its members. Then, seeing God at work through its members, that vision enables the pastor to see the picture of what God desires and interpret it correctly. For someone with …