“I think too much pastoral ministry is based around what God has already killed off. It is so important that we are not “pastored” in our old nature, but “pastored” in our new nature so that we are helped to become more significant in who Jesus is for us and that we stop being obsessed with our old self and instead become preoccupied with our new nature in Jesus.” – Graham Cooke from the conference session titled, “Spiritual Appraisal”
What would go through your mind if you witnessed a doctor treating a person’s cancer after the person’s funeral? What would you think if s/he prescribed radiation or chemotherapy treatments two days after that person’s funeral? We’d think that that doctor was crazy, wouldn’t we?
Yet, how often in pastoral ministry is the focus on giving “prescriptions” or “remedies” for something that God has already killed off? For as the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:19-20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and no longer do I live, but Christ lives in me and now that which I live in flesh, I live by faith, that of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” I wonder what must run through God’s mind when the focus of so many leaders in the church today is dealing with things and “conditions” which God has already killed off. “3 steps to dealing with impatience;” “4 steps to holding your temper;” etc.
Helping Christians deal with the old nature is a multi-billion dollar industry in this world. And that is crazy, because it is just like that cancer doctor prescribing treatment for a person’s cancer after that cancer has resulted in his or her death.
The focus has to be on helping followers of Christ, those within whose hearts the Spirit of Christ has come to reside because of belief in the message of Christ, understand and go deeper into what that nature is and means for them and who God wants to be for them in that time, place and situation which He couldn’t be at any other time.
When the main focus and a very high amount of time is dedicated to dealing with that which God has already killed off, pastoral ministry and the church becomes all about sin management which is a default into the type of gospel that Paul railed against in his letter to the Galatian believers, a gospel which he said really isn’t any real gospel at all, because it isn’t good news because it’s just a repackaging of the old and, therefore, worthless.
The focus of pastoral ministry must be “present future,” not “present past.” That means that pastors, through the direction of the Spirit, intersect a person’s faith journey, interacting with him/her so that s/he realizes who God is for them right now, what gift of His He’s trying to help them further unwrap right now, and who God might want to be for him/her moving forward. If all with which pastors are dealing is present-past, how can a follower move beyond the present into the future?
From this, when encountering something that God is doing, there are two proper questions to be asked in order to move into that future of who God wants to be for a person at that particular time and moving forward: “What does this mean?” and “What must I do about it?” These two questions are “present-future” and how I believe God would have someone pastor.