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« The Fall of Babylon | Main | Mock My Shodesty »

Assuming Responsibility

It has been said that if you are not a liberal in your youth you have no heart, but if you are not a conservative when you become an adult, you have no brain.  Sounds reasonable to me.  I am more certain of this:  a fundamental transformation takes place when a person takes the responsibility of life seriously.  This sense of responsibility intensifies when a family appears.  Responsibility causes the vast majority of us to exercise greater caution, take fewer risks, and, generally speaking, rein in any propensity we may have for wild and adventurous escapades.

To be accountable to oneself alone does not typically exert enough pressure for most of us, especially in our youth, to live a reserved, controlled, safe life.  The young soldier who goes off to war, for example, has excitement pumping through his veins; his parents, however, wrestle with a far different set of emotions as they give him that final hug and watch the bus or plane disappear in the distance.  Nearly every high school graduation season brings the tragic news of a carload of graduates involved in a fatal crash, most likely having just left a party where they were drinking or getting high.  While we mourn the loss, we don’t necessarily judge the kids as bad characters.  We think of them as kids out having fun.  Aside from the legal technicalities that obviously apply to the driver, we still consider the real criminal to be the adult who supplied the alcohol or drugs, not the immature youths. 

Accountability to a family is a much more sobering thought.  Most people old enough to get married and raise a family transition from a carefree life to one of adult responsibilities.  We often hear it said, “When he gets a wife and children, he’ll settle down,” or, “all she needs is someone who really loves her and she’ll stop her wild ways.”  If often happens this way, or at least, these are societal expectations.  As a society, we are apt to place much more blame or condemnation on someone who has a family and yet acts irresponsibly. 

Those of us who enter the pastoral ministry, however, understand this principle in a spiritual sense as well as a temporal one.  Pastors have the added burden of accountability to God.  They do not—indeed, they cannot—live only for themselves and continue to properly execute the task of pastoring.  Eternal souls are not to be trifled with.  Even as we have enough common sense not to carry two or three carat diamonds around in our pockets like loose change, we do not handle the priceless souls created and redeemed by the blood of Jesus as though they were worthless. 

In my pastoral ministry, I am occasionally accosted by contentious people about the rules and regulations that they consider silly.  Worse, I have even been told that the way I pastor the congregation that God has entrusted to me amounts to spiritual abuse.  Few, if any, of these critics have assumed the responsibility of watchful care over precious souls.  I use the word precious, not as maudlin sentimentalism, but in a technical sense of being of great price and worthy of honor.  I honor the members of the body of Christ that God has placed in my assembly.  I believe I need to care for their souls with the same vigilance that Smith Barney or Charles Schwab possess in watching over investors’ money.  In fact, I should care even more because money is only temporal, not eternal.  People need to know about pitfalls, dangers, allurements and well-intentioned mistakes that constantly challenge them as they negotiate the roller coaster of life.  I am no better than a shyster or a shark if I fail to exercise due diligence in helping them make their way to heaven.

My classic illustration is to picture a dangerous highway with traffic buzzing both ways at high speeds.  If I am by myself, I can dart out in front of an oncoming vehicle with as much boldness as I want, believing that I can get to the other side safely.  In fact, it can become a little game, sort of like dodge ball.  Suppose, however, that I have my little granddaughter with me.  This changes everything.  I have now assumed responsibility for someone other than myself, and I am not about to act stupidly or carelessly.  I may insist that she hold my hand, even if it slows me down.  Or, I may pick her up and carry her, even though she may fight me and try to make me let her walk by herself.  Sorry, but I can’t risk it.  I am going to wait until the traffic clears.  I am going to move only when I am absolutely sure that I can make it to the other side with no problem whatsoever.  Someone may take the responsibility away from me, but as long as I am responsible, I am going to take every precaution necessary to get her safely to the other side.

Such is the way I view assuming responsibility in the role of a pastor.  Pastors who experiment with various theological positions without knowing the full ramifications of the new doctrines, lift restrictions that have been in place for years, tire of being harassed by people who chafe against the rules and throw open the gate to the world are, in my opinion, acting irresponsibly.  Pastors are not called to babysit, be buddies with their people or use the souls entrusted to them as a means to their own personal objectives in life.  We are called to shepherd souls that are owned by God Himself.  Once that divine objective is embraced, no other motivation exists in the mind and heart of the pastor.  Such is the admonition of the Apostle Paul:

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)

If I am a saint under the leadership of a pastor, I don’t want him to listen to my immature and irresponsible complaints.  I want him to, lovingly of course, tell me that he wants me to safely make it to the other side.  After all, isn’t this the point of it all?

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Reader Comments (4)

Great Blog... However,would the great leaders of Pentecostal movements and organizations such as Howard Goss be classified as one of those "who experiment with various theological positions without knowing the full ramifications of the new doctrines." In his statement at the 1946 General Conference, he said "...I have not and do not teach a person will go to Hell is he has not been baptized in the Holy Spirit as that depends upon the light he has from God." while his practice was to preach the whole gospel as normal and widely accepted by early pioneer pentecostals, his careful stand to not always remain in the box of historical or what was becoming new orthodox traditions made him the true leader he was.

October 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterG.W. Hall

Absolutely awesome article. Will share with PI class today - the next generation of leadership needs to understand this!

October 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterT.J. Heidenreich

I agree. Never compromise doctrine, but do love and nurture in love and grace. I believe there is a delicate balance but can well be maintained through death in the flesh.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTracy Manuel

Howard Goss was viewed with some suspicion by the hard liners.

October 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Garcia

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