23 September 2010

PMI: Maybe Not TMI, But MTP and TWI

Missing The Point and The Wrong Inquisition

I'm wondering how much TLCMS, Inc. has already "invested" in postage for this Spanish inquisition, the proper name of which I cannot recall (because the blizzard of mailings I've received on it are in a pile at church). "Preparedness for Ministry Inventory," or some such thing, is what it is called.

When I got the first request, this past spring, to participate in a trial run of this new instrument, purportedly advocated by the seminaries, I was reluctant to do so. I've frankly lost my confidence in anything from the Corporation's Capital City pertaining to the pastoral ministry or the actual life of the church, though I am optimistic for the future now that we have a pastor and a theologian in the office of the president. We shall see.

Anyway, I was reluctant to participate, but I asked my board of elders and church council for their input, opinion and recommendation, and they suggested that it might be helpful to the synodical boards and seminaries to have some input from a solid confessional congregation like ours. They encouraged me to participate, and I agreed to do so.

Since then, I've received at least five other mailings about this thing, thanking me, reminding me, thanking me, reminding me, letting me know it was almost on its way, then the thing itself, and then another thank you and reminder. Somebody's functions have certainly survived the summer, clearly enough, and TLCMS, Inc. is doing more than its share to support the U.S. Postal Service, too. Kudos, I guess, to those who are finding such ways to keep busy and to spend money we don't have.

President Harrison certainly has his work cut out for him.

But what is it that the Corporation is spending so much time, energy and postage promoting? This instrument is intended to evaluate the preparation of pastors for, well, presumably for the pastoral office, but apparently for the position of some kind of program director and social coordinator, part politician, part schmoozer. It seems the authors of this survey may want pastors to be some kind of pansies, too, if the leading questions of this Spanish inquisition are any indication.

Not that I've seen the actual survey that I was asked to distribute to half a dozen or more lay members of my congregation. Trust the mortal princes and do as your told, or so the policy goes, leastwise where the previous synodical bureaucracy was concerned.

The accompanying survey, which I was asked to complete as the pastor, dealt not with the means of grace, nor the preaching of the Gospel, nor the catechesis of the Word of Christ, nor pastoral care, nor anything pertaining to the actual life of the Church, but with community demographics and sociology. I was not asked how often I hear confession, nor whether I go to confession with my own father confessor. I was not asked how often the congregation is gathered for the Word of God and prayer. I was not asked about visitations, nor the piety and practice of the Holy Communion, nor the observance of the Church Year and the celebration of the Divine Service.

Now that the laity who were given the sealed instrument to complete have been fulfilling that task, I'm hearing about the sort of things they were asked. At least some of them were quite put off by the character and content of the questions (I haven't heard from the others). Since I was not privy to the actual survey, I can only go on what I've been told, but it evidently has more to do with program development and direction than with the pastoral office and ministry. That doesn't surprise me, 'cause it's the same ol' same ol' thing that I've been hearing from the Corporate Capital for the past decade. But, still, it makes me downright sad. Not for me and my congregation, who are living and growing in the joy of the Gospel. But it makes me sad for the fellowship of the Church on earth; for my brother pastors who are beleaguered and wearied and driven to exhaustion and despair by misguided and wrongheaded expectations and criteria; for the dear people of God who are given propaganda and marketing strategies instead of pastoral care and catechesis; and for the faithful seminary professors who are surely more interested in preparing real pastors for Christ's Church instead of program directors for the Corporation's clientèle.

How long, O Lord, how long, until the called and ordained stewards of Your sacred Mysteries are encouraged to be faithful in that stewardship, and are helped and supported in that stewardship, by their fathers and brothers in office, instead of being cajoled and corralled into misguided enterprises and wrongheaded undertakings of human devising?

How long, O Lord, how long, until the actual Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, that is to say, the pastors and congregations of Your Church who share this fellowship in a common confession and administration of the Gospel, set their hearts, minds and bodies on doing just that: namely, confessing and administering Your Gospel, in the confidence of Your Cross and Resurrection?

Pastors are prepared for the pastoral ministry by the pastoral care of the pastoral ministry: which isn't about marketing or propaganda, but comprises the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, the ongoing catechesis of the Word of Christ unto faith in His forgiveness, the hearing of confession and the absolving of sins in His name and stead, and the regular reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. Where those things are not at the center, neither is Christ Jesus. Where those things are the heart of who we are and what we do, there Christ is our true treasure, and we live by the grace of His Gospel, unto the life everlasting.

Kyrie eleison! Christe eleison! Kyrie eleison!


Pr. H. R. said...

This is endemic across denominational lines. I just started reading Eugene Peterson's Working the Angles which is a crie du coeur against this sort of view of the ministry. The book promises to be very good. One will have to read around some of his Presbyterian assumptions (and especially say his constant "he or she" in regard to ministers), but again, so far the book promises to be a wonderful antidote to this sort of thing. Maybe it could be the next book give away that Pres. Harrison does at a board meeting.


Anonymous said...

As a lay person who did the survey
I was put off by some of the questions --- they don't care what kind of pastor he is in the pulpit
they want to know all about his work
outside the church...while outside
work is good, I want to make sure if
I bring people into the church they
hear someone who knows law and gospel,
who know how to conduct a service and administer the sacraments rightly. Maybe I'm asking too much,
but what good is a Pastor in the community if he isn't God's servant in the church...If we have to start somewhere why don't they start with what the laity does and doesn't know and then let the Pastor do his job....I do thank God
daily that I now am in a place that
I have Pastors that know, care and do their vocation very well.

Carl Vehse said...

Do you know if this questionnaire was prepared and written by official members of TLCMS, Inc., or was it purchased from some religious consultant business or maybe obtained from some university's graduate student's pan-denominational research project?