Classical Pastoral Practice for Today: Let’s Be Human! -- By: Thomas N. Smith

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 12:3 (Summer 2003)
Article: Classical Pastoral Practice for Today: Let’s Be Human!
Author: Thomas N. Smith

Classical Pastoral Practice for Today: Let’s Be Human!

Thomas N. Smith

After preaching and pastoring for more than thirty-five years in evangelical churches, I have a suspicion that borders upon a conviction. It is this. Most people within these churches would rather have something other than a human being to be their pastor.

What they would prefer would be something that is not quite an angel but more than a human being—perhaps a whole new and different species of rational being existing between the angelic and Homo sapiens.

These people do not like being human themselves. They dislike and are suspicious of the whole human thing. Being human, after all, means messiness. Being human means there is always a mess, or at least the potential for a mess. Human beings secrete, excrete, exfoliate, and expectorate. Human beings make mistakes, fail, change, and fall short of our expectations and their own promises. Human beings violate other human beings, other things that are not human, even their own environment. Human beings soil their own beds and destroy their own living spaces.

Being human means being weak. We are subject to a whole array of physical enemies before which we seem to be walking targets. Against these threats we fortify ourselves with proper diet and exercise, avoiding (or at least trying to) saturated fats

and trans fats, nicotine and caffeine, taking a host of vitamins and medications, trying our best to avoid stress and get seven or eight good hours of sleep in every twenty-four. Even when we are as healthy as a thoroughbred, we are still vulnerable to a host of mental and emotional attackers. Record numbers of Americans are today depressed and more are taking antidepressant medications than at any other time in our recent history. This includes an alarming number of adolescents. Others suffer from more serious mental disorders. Even among the relatively stable a simple dream can ruin a whole, otherwise glorious, day. But mental weakness still plagues even the very healthy. Example: The best of us forget things—sometimes important things like appointments, birthdays, and anniversaries. If we were more than human, perhaps we would not be weak.

But, the truth is even darker. Being human means being fallen. Being human means being sinful. We are idolatrous, culpable to obsessions that can ruin our lives and damn our souls. We are malicious, capable of destroying others, even others whom we love, with words and acts. We are lustful, susceptible to whims and fancies that have the potential to bring chaos into our lives and the lives of others. We are deceitful, vulnerable to breaking promises and sacred vows and violating trut...

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