Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Going deeper - a Pastor's responsibility.

After my late night pondering on the surface level nature of our culture and even interactions in the church, today I have been starting to delve a little into some books that may help me develop some ideas on breaking that surface and going deeper.

In his book Brothers We are not Professionals, John Piper has reminded me that, as always, the change needs to start in me.  As pastor and shepherd if I am not willing to break my surface and let people see my deep emotions and passions then how can I expect to see others'? Piper uses Jeremiah's lament over the fall of Jerusalem as a brilliant example of this.
Lamentations is a deeply emotional book. Jeremiah writes about what means most to him, and he writes in agony. He feels all the upheaval of Jerusalem in ruins. There is weeping (1:2), desolation (1:4), mockery (1:7), groaning (1:8), hunger (1:11), grief (2:11), and the horrid loss of compassion as mothers boil their own children to eat them (2:20; 4:10).  If there ever was intensity and fervor int the expression of passion from the heart, this is it... 
After reading Lamentations, we can no longer believe that unpondered prayers are more powerful or real or passionate or heartfelt or genuine or alive than prayers that are thoughtfully and earnestly (and painfully?) poured out through a carefully crafted form.  The anger of formalism is real.  Prayers and sermons that are read from a manuscript are usually stiff and unnatural and artificial. But the danger of spontaneity is also great.  If the heart is without passion, it will produce lifeless, jargon-laden spontaneity. And if the heart is aflame, no form will quench it... 
Emotions are like a river flowing out of one's heart.  Form is like the riverbanks. Without them the river runs shallow and dissipates on the plain.  But banks make the river run deep.  Why else have humans for centuries reached for poetry when we have deep affections to express? The creation of a form happens because someone feels a passion.  How ironic, then, that we often fault form when the real evil is a dry spring... Many pastors are not known for expressing deep emotions. This seems to me especially true in relation to the profoundest theological realities. This is not good, because we ought to experience the deepest emotions about the deepest things. And we ought to speak often, and publically, about what means most to us, in a way that shows its value.
~John Piper - Brothers we are not Professionals - p146-149
And so it's not just about spontaneous, in the moment, passionate reactions... it is about diligently forming my emotions, passions and feelings into my sermons and prayers.  Actively planning to share my personal life and reactions publically as part of what God has said to me about what God is wanting to say to the church through the preaching of His Word.  This creates an environment where people will expect me to go deeper when they ask for help, because I have been going deeper publically already.

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