Reading time: two minutes.
The seminary taught me the answers.
It was the Church that taught me to first figure out the questions. I’m still learning.
Intellectual wellbeing is often defined as having all the answers. I’m so glad for my wonderful education, for the resource of centuries of Christian wisdom and literature as well as for our corpus of confessional doctrine.
I’m also glad for the opportunity to serve in ministry and to have the sacred privilege of entering people’s lives. And I’m at my best when I’m most curious.
Ministry is about care and compassion for the people we serve. As people of the Word, we seek to offer the healing, transforming Word of the Lord to people in the midst of the trials and concerns of life.
Dr. Walther was right about properly distinguishing between the use of the Law and the application of the Gospel being a fine art. It begins with a thorough understanding of the scriptures.
It’s only truly beneficial when we know enough about someone to understand their need; the need for correction and reproof or the need for comfort and compassion.
That comes from listening.
There’s an old saying that if your only tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail. The application of God’s Word in the lives of people is far more nuanced than just swinging away with a few favorite Bible quotes. For many years I would work on selecting a text for hospital visits on the way driving over to see someone.
That’s really pretty offensive, and certainly not very pastoral.
One of my frustrations with my new position at Grace Place Wellness is that no one calls me “Pastor” anymore. I’m no longer the one walking alongside families on their faith journey year after year; living, experiencing, aching, rejoicing with them. I preached as a guest last weekend. It’s different.
I really am blessed to spend a week with folks like you at our retreats, or a weekend at your congregations. I listen as hard and fast as I can. I’m curious about your journey and want to offer hope.
But after our brief time together, I’m a bit jealous as you return to your walk with the Lord’s people.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (v. 29).
“According to their needs.” That’s why we listen well first, so that our words might be wholesome. And beneficial.
God bless your listening and your speaking!
Thanks for reading.