Pastoral Survival Guide: by Rowland Croucher.
The Characteristics of Pastors who make the Distance.
After listening to hundreds of their stories, I believe that there are the ten characteristics of pastors – women and men – who ‘make the distance’.
- In past posts we have covered Jesus our Model, Spiritual Formation, and Images of Ministry (March 5 2015).
- Last week we looked at Spiritual Disciplines ( 12th March 2015)
Today we will look at the difference between the Saint and the Pharisee.
THE SAINT AND THE PHARISEE
In general there are two religious mind-sets – those of the ‘saint’ and the Pharisee. We all have something of each in us, and the potential to be either. Both may be ‘orthodox’ theologically, even ‘evangelical’. Both pursue ‘goodness’ but by different means, for different ends. (Pharisees were ‘good’ people in the worst sense of the word!). Saints (like Jesus) emphasise love and grace, Pharisees law and (their interpretation of) ‘truth’. Saints are comfortable with ‘doctrine’, but for the Pharisee doctrine becomes dogma, law becomes legalism, ritual (the celebration of belonging) becomes ritualism.
The saint lives easily with questions, paradox, antinomy, mystery;
Pharisees try to be ‘wiser than God’ and resolve all mysteries into neat formulas: they want answers, now. The saint listens, in solitude and silence; the Pharisee fills the void with sound.
With Jesus, acceptance preceded repentance, with the Pharisees it was the other way around.
The saint, like Jesus, says first ‘I do not condemn you’. Pharisees find that difficult: they’d prefer ‘go and sin no more’.
Jesus welcomes sinners; sinners get the impression they’re not loved by Pharisees. For the Pharisee, sins of the flesh and ‘heresy’ are worst, and they are experts on the sins of others. For the saint, sins of the spirit – one’s own spirit – are worst. Saints are ‘Creation-centred’; Pharisees ‘Fall-centred’. The saint’s good news begins with ‘You are loved’; the Pharisees begin with ‘You are a sinner’.
For the Pharisee ‘my people’ = ‘people like me’; for the saint ‘my people’ = all God’s people. Pharisees are insecure (needing ‘God-plus’ other things); the saints are secure (needing ‘God only’). The Pharisees’ audience is other people: their kudos provides a measure of security (psychologists call it ‘impression management’; Jesus calls it hypocrisy). The saints’ only audience is God: their inner and outer persons are congruent.
Pharisees hate prophets (‘noisy saints’) and their call to social justice; saints love justice. (Saints aren’t into writing creeds very much, which is why the two things most important for Jesus – love and justice – don’t appear in them).
So saints remind you of Jesus; the Pharisees of the devil (demons are ‘orthodox’). Saints see Jesus in every person: they haven’t any problem believing we’re all made in the image of God (= Jesus) although they’re realistic about that image being marred by sin. Saints are spread through all the churches: the closer they are to Jesus, the more accepting they are of others. ‘Ambition’ for them means ‘union with Christ’: they call nothing else ‘success’. In their prayer they mostly ‘listen’, ‘wait on the Lord’; the Pharisee needs words, words, words.
Pharisees have a tendency to complain about many things; for the saints life is ‘serendipitous’: they have a well-developed theology of gratitude. Pharisees are static, unteachable, believing they have monopoly on the truth; saints are committed to growing. (Nature, they say, abhors a vacuum; the Spirit abhors fullness – particularly of oneself). Jesus was full of grace and truth; Peter says grow in grace and knowledge: Pharisees aren’t strong on grace, but for saints ‘grace is everywhere’.
The religion of the saints is salugenic, growth-and health-producing; that of the Pharisee is pathogenic.
Only one thing is important: to be a saint.
Pastors who have not been cured of their Pharisaism will not last the distance.
Saints appreciate these sentiments (in Rory Noland’s song):
Holy Spirit, take control.
Take my body, mind, and soul.
Put a finger on anything
that doesn’t please you,
Anything that grieves you.
Holy Spirit, take control.
Rowland Croucher (born 1937) is an Australian pastor, counsellor and author.
Brought up in the Open Brethren in Sydney, following a five-year career as a high-school teacher, Croucher began training in 1964 for the Baptist ministry in New South Wales. He worked for the InterVarsity Fellowship (1968-1970), now the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (AFES); then pastored churches in Australia: Narwee and Central Baptist Church – both in Sydney – and Blackburn Baptist Church in Melbourne, which became a “megachurch” in the late 1970s, with seven pastors, a salaried staff of 25 and 1,000 attending; plus several interim ministries. He was then, briefly, pastor at First Baptist Church, Vancouver, Canada. From 1983 to 1991 he worked for World Vision Australia.
Since 1991, Croucher has been founding director of John Mark Ministries, serving pastors, ex-pastors, church leaders and their spouses throughout Australia and elsewhere. The John Mark Ministries website, with 20,000 articles, claims to be the most accessed non-denominational religious website in Australia.
Croucher has authored 12 books, including Still Waters Deep Waters (with 35,000 copies in print) and has been a regular participant on Australian radio and TV programs. (Wikipedia)