“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us... If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his word is not in us.” ~1 John 1:8, 10 (NRSV).
The title of the article categorises us into generalisation. But if we were to ask the run-of-the-mill pastor what their chief frustration might be, pastorally speaking, it may have something to do with what blocks their congregants’ manifestation of the saved life. That is, the enjoyment—with oneself and others, in relationship—of the abundant life.
Nothing will block passage to the abundant life more than sin, and the pastor knows it.
Their sole, driving passion for ministry is likely to centre on seeing transformation occur in lives within their charge, including their own. This is the key reason most pastors enter ministry to begin with.
The Pastor’s Chief Task
The nuts-and-bolts of the pastor’s job is to exhort the gospel message, ensuring its relevance in parishioners’ lives. They need to highlight the priory of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and mission.
A central part of the task is facilitating the revelation of God’s Spirit as it pertains to individual lives, and the Body generally. Acknowledgement of sin, and the commensurate grace of God, is pivotal to correct understanding.
But highlighting such things is not a simple matter. It is the biggest single challenge any leader faces; influencing disciples to accept ownership and accountability—their sinfulness. Only from this basis will salvation have a chance to take root and flourish, for truth can only abide in those whom acknowledge their sin. Only when acknowledgement of our personal sinfulness is accepted can we as people grow in Christ.
Why is Reticence to Sin the Chief Frustration?
Our notional pastor will most likely be frustrated by individuals’ reticence to admit error and reject intention to do wrong, as well as understate preferences for ignorance.
In short, it is a reticence to own a fair share in wrongdoing that presents as the chief barrier to actually living the saved life.
It is sure to cause the pastor great concern when they see those attending church feigning a walk in the light when, indeed, they are actually walking in darkness.
If we wish to respect our church leaders, honouring them as we are encouraged (for instance, see Hebrews 13:17), then we will value truth, and cling close enough to the acknowledgement of our sin, that transformation—in the Spirit of Christ—is not only possible, it’s inevitable.
Most poignantly, let us never forget: vision of our sin heralds grace all the more. We have a Saviour who has saved us from the condemnation that once clung. To believe we must agree: we are sinners who need saving.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.