This is part two of a series exploring Eugene Peterson’s book, The Contemplative Pastor. I’m moving from the unbusy pastor, skipping over the subversive pastor and going straight to the apocalyptic pastor, because it is what seizes my attention most, and is what I think is most lacking in myself today, and perhaps in the church, today. Being subversive is fine, and that word was used a lot, perhaps too much, while I was in seminary. And though Peterson does some good things with the adjective subversive, I think we run the risk of loving subversion so much that we, and the message we proclaim, becomes subordinate to everything else.
But apocalyptic? There’s a word that POPS. It challenges me. Whereas subversion appeals to my already heightened desire to maintain the status-quo, to fly just under the radar, apocalyptic crashes God’s world into my own and demands I get to work. Peterson writes,
With the vastness of the heavenly invasion and the urgency of the faith decision rolling into our consciousness like thunder and lightning, we cannot stand around on Sunday morning filling the time with pretentious small talk on how bad the world is and how wonderful this new stewardship campaign is going to be.
Peterson’s thoughts on apocalypse help spring board some thoughts of my own about what it means to be such a pastor.
To be an apocalyptic pastor is to be one with a sense of urgency. There is a war happening all around us – a spiritual battle of unprecedented stakes – and far too many of us are distracted by the color of our paraments. We are the equivalent of a soldier on the front lines, oblivious to the bombs and bullets everywhere, fixated instead on the different styles of boots his comrades wear.
But not the apocalyptic pastor. Such a pastor is one who doesn’t care what anyone else is wearing because he or she is too busy putting out the flames of hell. A pastor who is apocalyptic knows that every sermon may be her last and her hearers have been lulled to sleep by the enemy. The apocalyptic pastor knows that his time is short, and so is theirs, and unless we wake up and come out of our preferable stupor we will all die.
The apocalyptic pastor is always looking to save souls. He or she never ceases to pray that God would fill their church this Sunday with needy, desperate people hungry to hear good news. He or she will be filled with grief over the lost in their community and world. They are torn between praying “come quickly Lord!” and praying that God would stay His hand so that just one more might be saved.
Finally, the apocalyptic pastor knows that his greatest gift is the invitation. Never should an opportunity pass where the gospel is not brought to bear on the conscious of all gathered, where those in attendance are not given a chance to “repent and believe the good news.” The apocalyptic pastor knows that this may be the last time he ever gets to share such pressing news to this people, and expects to see them respond as anyone who has just heard their eternity is in danger ought.
I want to be an apocalyptic pastor. I think the world needs more of them. What about you?