The Withertongue Emails: Part XV

BY DONAVON RILEY

My dear Filthpit,

You mentioned in the last report that your young pastor continues to look for a call to another church. He is not happy with his present congregation and has almost given up hope of ever converting them to true Christianity (as he understands it). Why have you not followed up with me about his growing discontent? He has lost faith in the Enemy’s purpose for putting him there. Do you not understand that this is a very good thing? Do you not know that if your client can be turned away from fidelity to the Enemy’s purpose for that little flock, he will for the rest of his career be unsettled no matter to which pulpit he is bound? He will always be on the lookout for a congregation that truly adores him and appreciates his abilities.

The reasons are as obvious as the horns on your head, Filthpit. First, he does not like the people who come to church. The congregation is made up of different kinds of people, who suffer from a variety of spiritual, psychological, and physical illnesses. There is no unity of person or purpose that he can discern. Not the kind of unity he imagines the Enemy desires. He does not see a community of saints so much as a hodgepodge of social rejects. He does not want to waste anymore time with them. That is why he has stopped asking them questions. He avoids engaging them in conversation and is not receptive to their calls for spiritual nourishment. In fact, the more they complain about their struggles and afflictions, the more irredeemable they appear to him. It is now gotten to the point that there is not a sermon, or bible study, or conversation he does not imagine would be better received by people at another church.

He has concluded that the people he has been called to shepherd are all equally under judgement. He has even come to hate some of them. He cannot preach or teach without attempting to shock, terrify, and belittle them. There is also a growing dishonesty in your young pastor. For example, when he refers to “the teachings of the Church,” what he means is, “I’m sure this is what so-and-so would have said were he in my place.” His exegesis is even more insipid. He really believes his interpretation of the Enemy’s words is irrefutable. That is his most fatal defect of character.

Finally, pay attention to your client’s attitude toward his church body. His fervent devotion to certain doctrinal matters is more a product of political loyalty than the Enemy’s teaching. This is where you can have some real fun with him. Urge him to develop an unhealthy fixation with how people describe something like “communion.” A term I know he loathes, since he thinks it is an impious term for “the most holy supper of the Lamb.” Likewise, point out to him how little reverence people show toward the care of altar candles, paraments, and the vessels used for his precious “sacraments.” Make him seethe about the way they fail to appreciate his vestments, that they tease him about the way he affects a different way of speaking when he prays before the altar and when he is in the pulpit. Convince him that their comments reveal a betrayal of the Enemy’s cause and a confession of their comfortable idolatry. 

Give these matters your full attention, Filthpit. Make them a constant refrain in your client’s treatment. In this way, his mind and heart will become a hothouse of self-centeredness and pride.

Your proud teacher,

Withertongue

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.
Twitter @DonavonRiley