Monday, November 2, 2009

Patient and Loving Catechesis

"You must take the time to patiently and lovingly catechize (teach) the people you serve before making changes."  This is the advice future pastors are given during their formative years at seminary.  It is good advice.  It makes lots of sense.  If the pastor comes into a congregation and makes a lot of changes without taking the time to teach people, those changes are almost assuredly not going to be well received.  Even if those changes are much needed and have solid theological reasons behind them, the pastor would be wise to approach them with patience and love toward the flock he serves.  I am all for taking the time to patiently and lovingly catechize the flock before making changes.  I think this is wise and salutary advice.

However, there should be something added to this wise and salutary advice.  Those who offer this advice should also make it clear that patient and loving catechesis only goes so far.  The truth is that no matter how patiently and lovingly the pastor catechizes the flock before making changes, there will be some who will be opposed to the changes.  These are usually people who have not availed themselves of the patient and loving catechesis the pastor has taken the time to do.  Thus, the advice to patiently and lovingly catechize the flock before making changes should be followed with the acknowledgment that doing so will not usually result in unanimous approval of these changes.  In other words, one should not be led to believe that patient and loving catechesis will spare the pastor of being questioned (or even mocked and ridiculed) about the changes he makes.  Life in the church militant is tough.

But, still, I like the advice.  I have learned that patient and loving catechesis does produce much fruit.  Those who are willing to be taught are taught, and they appreciate the fact that the pastor wants to teach them before making changes.  And when the pastor takes the time to patiently and lovingly catechize the flock before making changes, when those changes are made, they are well received by most.  In fact, if the pastor has done well in his patient and loving catechesis, it will turn out that the people who have been taught will advocate making the changes he desires.  And that is good, for when the opposition comes, and it almost always will, it will be very difficult for those bringing it to charge the pastor with making changes to suit his own whims and desires, since the faithful who have received his catechesis stand with him and desire what he desires.

So, patient and loving catechesis?  By all means!  But, let us not be naive enough to think that this will ensure a happy and unanimous consensus within the congregation when changes are made.  After all, what they should also emphasize at the seminary is the truth that it is impossible for the pastor to catechize people who refuse to be catechized.

Just thinking out loud. :)   


sag said...

You have a little work to do before Advent/church decorating/Nativity scene. Oh well, keep plugging away and we'll get it!

amelithpastor said...

Very true. There can be lots of rocks in this Michigan soil!

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Hey "amelithpastor,"

Looking forward to seeing you this Sunday for "An Afternoon with Matt Harrison." Several of us from Peace will be coming over - very excited about it! :)