Yesterday I read an article by Carl Trueman entitled ‘Life Together… Or Maybe Not’, which was posted on the Reformation 21 website. It makes some useful and telling points about pastoral care and the relationship of lead pastors with the congregations they serve, but the framework of the article is based on an anecdote about an experience of someone who is part of a large church led by an un-named, but apparently publicly noted, pastor.
I found this framing material neither necessary or helpful. Also I think it ran counter to this point, made by Trueman himself in a piece that he wrote a couple of weeks ago. To quote:
“The problem is they build grand cases about general types on very limited access to evidence. When particular figures are dismissed as being polemically minded, relentlessly aggressive etc, it is possible that, on occasion, the criticism is true. More often, however, it is built upon reading a few pages of a blog or a book or a magazine; or listening to one lecture or public statement; worse still, it is based on hostile witness of some kind.”
I think the principle translates to this essay. A single incident, without context, becomes a general indictment upon a whole group.

Here’s my email:

Subject: Trueman article: Life Together…

I found Carl Truman’s post Life Together… challenging and helpful.
However, in desiring to share it with others I find myself hindered because
of its beginning anecdote about the situation of a pastor.
I don’t think it adds to the piece, and strikes me as odd in the light of
this sort of statement from Trueman a couple of weeks ago:
The problem is they build grand cases about general types on very limited
access to evidence. When particular figures are dismissed as being
polemically minded, relentlessly aggressive etc, it is possible that, on
occasion, the criticism is true. More often, however, it is built upon
reading a few pages of a blog or a book or a magazine; or listening to one
lecture or public statement; worse still, it is based on hostile witness of
some kind.
I think generalizations about pastors and churches fall under the same sort
of standard.
Thanks for reading this, I have appreciated Trueman’s recent posts on
Luther.

Grace and Peace,
Gary Ware.

Here’s the reply from Reformation 21:

Pastor,
Thank you for your message. Your inquiry is important to us and I have
copied Dr. Trueman and the reformation21 editorial team to at this for us.
They are quite small, thus busy, but really want to serve and really care
about your remarks. Thank you again for your message, thank you for your
prayer and financial support of the ministry, and thank you for trusting the
Alliance for your reformed resources.

Grace, mercy and peace,
Robert Brady * Executive VP * Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

Justin Taylor asks Trueman to expand on the more helpful parts of the article.
Carl Trueman responds, noting, I think, that some of his framework for the article is not germaine to his main emphasis.

The specific incident was not, however, the proof of any case I was trying to make, merely the trigger for the subsequent three reflections: 1. pastors should know their people; 2. real pastoral success should not be equated with increasing distance between pastor and people as the pastor becomes a superstar; and 3. pastors need to have time to listen to their people.

2 thoughts on “Emailing Reformation 21 And Carl Trueman

  1. Mark Smith says:

    Gary
    I concur with your thoughts that a pastor needs to know his people. But what are the limits, particularly as a congregation (God willing) grows in number? For congregations around a size of 60-80 people, you can pretty much keep up with what is happening as a number of those are family units. But start pushing over that, it can become wearing on a pastor to keep up with details of people lives. Then push over the 150/200 mark, there is still the expectation that the pastor will know ‘my concerns’ when sometimes what is only possible are small snippets of information. I’m interested in exploring this more as to how we care for people in larger settings. Throw in a couple of major issues (e.g. marriage problems, sexual sins) and a pastor’s time could be consumed by that, all the while, there is still the expectation to be involved elsewhere.
    Regards
    Mark

    1. gjware says:

      Hi Mark –
      The problem I had with the original post was that some reasonable points were being lost in what looked like a slam against larger churches.
      Justin Taylor’s question and Trueman’s reply get to the heart of the issue with their affirmation of a plural eldership and every member ministry.
      The ‘organ grinder/monkey thing’ does exist, though I think it is diminishing.
      We can’t have deep friendships with every member of a an average local church. But every one should have a sound relationship with someone who is capable of nurturing their Christian growth.
      I struggle because I’m not extroverted socially.
      A post by Zach Nielson pointed out that Trueman’s piece points out a problem without identifying solutions.

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