Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Therapist, counselor, encourager, great giver of advice: what is a pastor? How we answer this question will determine many things, not the least of which is this: Do I NEED a pastor?
You see, there are many people who have never needed a therapist or counselor. It is good to be encouraged, but don’t most people have parents, friends, or even a spouse or children? And while pastors may be able to give good advice at times, there are many questions about which a pastor may not be the best person to give advice: “I just inherited $25,000 from my grandmother, where should I invest it?” “I was wondering which online dating service you might recommend: Ehharmony.com, match.com, or ChristianCafe.com?” A pastor may give his opinion, and sometimes that opinion will be an educated one, but let me ask our opening question in another way: If your pastor is to be a therapist, counselor, encourager or great giver of advice, do you NEED a pastor?
Article IV of the Augsburg Confession (Justification) ends with this sentence: “By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins. God counts this faith for righteousness in His sight.”
So, faith is important…good. But how do we obtain such faith? Well, Article V (The Ministry) answers the question, and for you confessional trivia buffs, there’s actually no break in sentence from Article IV to Article V.
Article V begins: “So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22)].”
Did you catch it? The need to obtain saving faith necessitated the institution of the Pastoral Office. And is the pastor described as a therapist? Hardly. A pastor is called to the ministry of “teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments.” It’s actually pretty simple. You NEED a pastor, because the Pastoral Office is what God has given the church to ensure, quite simply, that you would receive Jesus.
In today’s New Testament reading in the Treasury of Daily Prayer, St. Paul echoes this understanding of the pastor’s identity: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).
It’s so easy to confuse the Pastoral Office, with the person who is in the office. While you may not need a certain left-handed man who grew up in the Midwest and plays the trombone…you do need to receive the preaching of the Gospel and you do need to receive the Sacraments—for in these instruments (means), is where Jesus is given, and through these instruments the Holy Spirit creates the faith that saves.
You may want to see a therapist or get advice from time to time, but you NEED a pastor because you NEED the Gospel.
From one servant of Christ to another. Amen.