The more we neglect God’s Word, the more we are forced to neglect God’s Word. An example might help to see what I mean.
Years ago, there was not a SET or a PIF form. Pastors were called based on what little information was available through personal contacts, or what the District President might personally know of a man. Perhaps a few notes from other District Presidents regarding his qualifications for office were made. This is before my time. Or my parents time. You have to go back a looooooong way to reach faithful practice on the part of DP’s in the call process.
Eventually that system was no longer working. Why? Because we had pastors that were teaching falsely: The bible is the “Word” of God, but didn’t really happen; Baptism is a Sacrament, but there is another level of gift from the Holy Spirit; The church has been wrong the past 1944 years about closed communion; we are Pelagians who believe in the authority of the word, but not it’s power so we need to install a praise band up front… You get the idea.
How to make sure that the wrong pastor (faithful) didn’t get sent into a congregation? Ask him about his practice, of course! So the SET form was developed. Each question is basically a variation of “Did God really say?” in areas such as the Office of the Holy Ministry, Worship, Communion Practice, Women in the Church, Charismatic gifts, etc.
The problem was that District President’s also found that the wrong kind of congregations (faithful ones) were sometimes calling pastors. So, a congregational self-study was instituted. This way, the District President could find out how faithful the congregation really wanted to be. If they were too faithful, then a faithful pastor would be procured. If they were wobbly, then it was time to send in a less faithful pastor to lead them further astray. (The District Presidents who did this were called “Fair” and “churchmen”, and were highly regarded by all involved.)
But what of congregations that, time and again, insisted on faithful pastors. They were definitely a problem. Some sort of solution was needed. The “Intentional Interim Pastor” (Otherwise known as “Methodism”) was born. These were men – often retired – who were more sympathetic to the District President’s point of view. They were, above all, nice men. So, when an unfaithful pastor (And Intentional Interim is by definition unfaithful practice) was sent into a faithful parish, the people all marveled about how nice he was. Hopefully, they never noticed that he wasn’t faithful. In the two or three years he served the vacancy, he would try to make faithful congregations wobble. Now, a less-than-faithful pastor could be procured for them.
Oh, this is obviously not how it was sold to congregations. That would never play in Peoria, as they used to say.
No, the District Presidents sold all of this as a way to “make sure it is a good fit” between pastor and congregation. Some Walther quotes were yanked out of context, and presto! Instant justification for terrible things being done. What was a good fit? Where pastor and people “like” each other. It’s not about faithfulness to God’s Word. It’s about personalities. And so, rather than consider the qualifications for office mentioned in scripture (Husband of one wife, apt to teach, etc), things like, “Tact”, and “Computer Abilities” and “Good with youth” are listed. Why? Because that’s what a congregation might be looking for in a pastor, instead of “Preaches faithfully”. We want instant connections, rather than pastor and people laboring in the word, and learning to love each other. The COP considers the call process more as a dating service than fulfilling God’s command to have a Shepherd for the sheep.
The farther we have strayed from God’s word, and the more we have adopted the psychological model of pastoral ministry, the more problems we have, and the more we must rely on the psychological model of pastoral ministry to solve our problems.
Of course, the problems can never be solved that way. In ancient Israel, the people were pressured from outside nations. So, they erected mixed altars, to avoid offending their enemies. God was offended. He brought trouble on them to warn them. Well, the obvious solution was to embrace idolatry wholeheartedly in order to win the favor of their neighbors in Canaan. Which brought more judgment, and required more allies from among the heathen, so they needed more idolatry… You get the point.
The question is, when will we?