Monday, February 16, 2009

Why are YOU teaching this Bible Study?

Someone challenged me with that question. Why am I, the Pastor, leading a Bible Study? I frankly think that's a stupid question. Duh. I'm the Pastor.

Don't get me wrong. We have more than one bible study going on in our congregation. We have two ladies circles where the ladies take turns leading. They like to chit chat and talk about what it means to them. We have another lay person leading our adult Sunday school where they use the Wired Word (this is a great study – I recommend it) and talk about how the bible relates to current events. And they chit chat and talk about what it means to them

And then twice a year, once in the winter, and once in the summer, there's the Pastor's Bible Study. And I teach it and lead it because a) I've been to seminary and I know a thing or two about the bible. 2) I have the time and the interest to research and do extra background work to put the study together. That's kind of what they pay me to do. 3) I have the gift of teaching. 4) The Pastoral role is a teaching role.

It feels really odd to have to explain why a pastor is teaching a Bible Study, but the combination of the denigration of the pastoral office and a misunderstanding of the notion of the "priesthood of all believers" has put pastors on the defensive when it comes to exercising their pastoral role and authority.

That's right, I said it. Pastoral Authority. It exists. Pastors have stewardship of it and frankly I believe the people most likely to abuse it are those who deny it's existence.

It's nice to chit chat and talk about what the bible means to you personally. But sorry, all opinions about the bible are not equal. There's a historical and literary context. There's a church tradition. There's a way Lutherans (my tradition) look at and interpret it. And knowing all those things does not take away from applying scripture to your life but enhances it and keeps you from coming up with some crazy and dangerous ideas. Like "I think God wants me to marry a bunch of pre-teen girls" This is why Lutherans have always believed that an educated clergy was essential to the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

I understand we are in a time in history where we are going to have to figure out new ways of being the church. And the days of every little congregation having their own full-time seminary educated pastor are coming to an end. But I'm concerned that we are not being as careful or intentional as we need to be about our understanding of the office of ministry when we come up with solutions. Because frankly a lot of the excitement in the congregation for lay ministers is the fact that they are getting them cheap. And that's not good for anyone.

No I'm not just worried about my job. This is another reason why it is so difficult to discuss this. It seems every discussion I get into trying to defend the importance of a an educated Office of Ordained Ministry to Word and Sacrament I get accused of being "threatened" by lay people "taking away my job"

Really I'm not. I've only got another 15 years before I retire and if it was just about saving my ass, I'm a survivor and I can take care of myself.

And really I don't want to do EVERYTHING in the church. I want to preach, and teach, and lead worship and visit the sick. And often I don't have time to do that because there's other stuff expected of me, that lay people could be doing. Like driving a bunch of confirmation kids to a confirmation retreat in a couple of weeks. Come on! I'm 51 years old! I shouldn't have to be sleeping on the floor of a church with a bunch of kids anymore. Surely there are others called to do that?

I will probably be saying more on this – but I'm putting this out there for now.Timothy Wengert argues this really well and I think every pastor, notjust Lutherans should read this

Priesthood, Pastors, Bishop Public Ministry for the Reformation & Today.


  1. Funny story: Last month, the person who usually teaches our Senior Adult Bible Study CANCELLED the class, rather than allow me--the pastor--to lead it, even though I'd offered to do so. Knowing him, I'm fairly certain that his reasons are largely sexist. And after serving here for five years, I've decided I'm not going to change this person. Oh well. I chose to be happy not to have that extra burden!

  2. And let me guess, the thing they would NEVER cancel and never let YOU get out of doing...organize the sign up for Lenten Suppers?

  3. LOL. I'm sure you're right. Except I'm wise enough not to volunteer for that particular duty!

    And no, I don't have my Ash Wed sermon finished....only ALMOST finished!

    OH...and thanks for the comments on my blog...especially for the hope in potty training! At this point, we've backed off and have told him that, if he keeps his pants dry, he gets rewards. If not, he gets changed. Someday it'll happen. I hope.

  4. Great to read you! Welcome to RevGals!