A Call to Pastoral Suffering: The Need for Recovering Paul’s Model of Ministry in 2 Corinthians -- By: Scott Hafemann

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 04:2 (Summer 2000)
Article: A Call to Pastoral Suffering: The Need for Recovering Paul’s Model of Ministry in 2 Corinthians
Author: Scott Hafemann

A Call to Pastoral Suffering:
The Need for Recovering Paul’s Model of Ministry
in 2 Corinthians1

Scott Hafemann

Scott Hafemann is Hawthorne Professor of Greek at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of Suffering and the Spirit, and Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel, as well as several scholarly articles. He has just completed 2 Corinthians for The NIV Application Commentary Series.


Though there are exceptions, the contemporary landscape of the American evangelical Church is flat. Instead of rising above our surroundings, our worship is anemic, filled with emotion but little life-changing gravity. Our discipleship is wrong-headed, focusing on meeting the felt needs of the Self, with little regard for meeting our real need to know God more profoundly. Our goals in life are idolatrous, deriving from a health-and-wealth gospel of family life, social status, and retirement, with little thought of laying down our lives for the sake of the kingdom. David Wells rightly says, “The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequential upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common.”2

One of the central reasons we find ourselves in this crisis is that our pastoral leadership no longer has a clear conception of its calling. In place of the biblical portrait of the shepherd who embodies the gospel by laying down his life for God’s people, we have substituted a teddy bear, CEO, or therapist model of the pastor. The pastor has become someone who dispenses comfort without the cross, who “manages” the church rather than models Christ, and who helps us feel good about ourselves rather than mediating the glory of God revealed in his Word. It is easy to see why this is the case, given the powerful cultural forces that are at work behind the contemporary redefinition of the pastoral office. As Hauerwas and Willimon insightfully point out,

One can readily understand why pastors are so ready to take up the general description of being one of the “helping professions.” After all, most of us professing Christians, from the liberals to the fundamentalists, remain practical atheists in most of our lives. This is so because we think the church is sustained by the “services” it provides or the amount of “fellowship” and “good feeling” in the congregation. Of course there is nothing wrong with “services” and “good feeling”; what is wrong is that they have become ends in themselves. When that happens the church and the ministry cannot avo...

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