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“the pastor as prophet, priest, and king”

Every pastor has a mental model of the pastorate that he considers normative. Some pastors have a well-defined, explicit model they can describe to you in clear sentences; others take more intuitive approach and decided case by case and instance by instance whether a particular task is their right or responsibility. I’ve even met some pastors who behaved as if everything they saw represented God’s calling on their lives in some sense, so that nothing was beyond their job description.

In contemporary evangelicalism the abstract concept of leadership is pretty popular; John Maxwell, for one, has made a career out of talking about the Bible as some sort of leadership manual, and suggesting that Jesus is the perfect role model for modern leaders. I’ve also heard preachers explicitly claim a right to a “Moses Model” of leadership; and I’ve often heard preachers lay claim (typically implicitly) to a Pauline leadership model, suggesting somehow that they were the prophetic voice speaking to a bunch of barely-Christian pew-sitters with a relationship like Paul the Apostle had to say the Corinthians.

But I rarely hear a preacher lay claim to the offices of Christ; I occasionally hear metaphorical near-nonsense like “our Mother the Church” but never “the Pastor our Savior.” So imagine my surprise when I heard about the recent article in the Orthodox Presbyterian publication New Horizons with the title above. It was written by someone named Jeffrey A. Landis, and it’s the cover article of the July-August 2011 issue [link].

Having read the article I am tempted to conclude that Landis is just being sloppy; the article is really about how a pastor’s job includes preaching, caring for people, and administrative duties, and Landis grabbed for an apt metaphor that sounded nice, added a weak introduction with this awkward transition

The Shorter Catechism reminds us that Christ, as our mediator, executes the offices of prophet, priest, and king (SC 23). Since pastors are Christ’s representatives, serving as undershepherds of their flock, it is helpful to think of their calling in terms of the same three categories. I have found that I cannot be a faithful pastor if I am not actively involved in all three areas.

And called it a day. And for whatever reasons the editor (Danny E. Olinger), managing editor (James W. Scott), editorial assistant (Patricia Clawson), and editorial board decided not to exercise any editorial options that involved making him rewrite the piece so it didn’t sound like it appropriates the Offices of Christ Himself for your rank and file OPC pastor.

It is a popular and common practice among those of us who try to both think like moderns and believe like Christians to use short but serious-sounding truisms, to wit:

  • “Words Mean Things”
  • “Theology Matters”
  • “What You Win Them With Is What You Win Them To

And we use these truisms as if they were both obvious and important. We treat them almost as incantations against liberalism, or modernism, or whatever.

So let me offer Landis’s article at the link above as a counterexample. Either words don’t mean things as neatly as we would like, or the folks at New Horizons really can’t tell the difference between an administrator and a King.

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