Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The proper nutrition

I would guess that every pastor wants to see his members grow in the faith.  He desires for them to see their sin, repent of it, and cling to Christ, not their works or emotions.  He is encouraged when a member 'gets it,' and shows enthusiasm (the good kind, not the heresy that clings to our flesh) for the teachings and work of the church.  He would certainly want to see the entire congregation grow in this way.  Spiritual apathy is very frustrating to deal with as a pastor.

My wife was watching a video by a nutritionist who consulted for the exercise program she is doing.  This man was emphasizing the value of nutrition for working out, essentially saying, 'You can undermine your workout by what you eat before and after.'  You can work out as hard as you want, but if you don't couple it with proper nutrition, you are sabotaging yourself.

This has direct application to the church.  We want our members to grow in the faith, we want them to be enthusiastic for the teachings and work of the church, we want to fight apathy.  But we so often do so without the nutrition Christ has given for doing this very task.  More social activities, youth group events and soup suppers can all be good things, but they don't have the ability to create and strengthen faith.  I as a pastor cannot expect anything but apathy if I am giving Christ's people a limited diet.

The nutrition Christ has given to the Church is the Word and the Sacraments.  These means of grace do have the power to create and strengthen faith.  That's why Christ gave them.  I cannot expect renewal in my congregation (or in the church at large!) without an emphasis on the gifts Christ has given.  I can try as hard as I want, I can run myself ragged, but if I am not using to the fullest extent Christ's gifts, I am sabotaging all of that work.

Without more frequent communion, the practice of private confession and absolution or a stronger emphasis on preaching and baptism, we are hamstringing all of our efforts; we are running in place or even going backward.  Those are the tools Christ has given, the nutrition He has provided.  Now, these gifts aren't magic; the results of Christ's Word and Sacraments are left in His hands.  We are all still sinners; apathy will still be encountered.  But even in the midst of apathy and sin, the pastor will be using the gifts that Christ has appointed for his task, the tools He has given, with the promise that His Word never returns empty, but will accomplish that for which it was sent.

No comments: