One of our talented young candidates in ministry, Christopher Barnett, is at Oxford University writing a dissertation on Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard, the “Solitary Dane,” had some tough things to say about pastors of his day. He firmly believed that pastors are not called to run errands for members of the congregation or to be the freelance therapist for everyone in need. Pastors are, in Kierkegaard’s words, primarily “servants of the truth.” We must cultivate an attachment to the truth, which is Jesus Christ, and to speak that truth no matter what.
Here are some of S.K.’s demands for pastors. I’ve been meditating upon them this week and have found them helpful, and sometimes painful!
- Pastors who can split up the “crowd” and turn it into individuals.
- Pastors who are not too much occupied with study and have no desire whatever to dominate.
- Pastors who, though able to speak, will be no less able to keep silent and be patient.
- Pastors who, though they know people’s hearts, have no less learned temperance in judgment and condemnation.
- Pastors who understand how to exercise authority, through the act of
- Pastors who have been prepared, trained, and educated in obedience and suffering so that they will be able to correct, admonish, edify, move, and also constrain not by force, anything but that, but rather through their own obedience; and above all will be able to put up with all the rudeness of the sick person without letting it upset her any more than a physician allows herself to be disturbed by the curses and kicks of a patient during an operation.
–– Soren Kierkegaard, The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard, trans. Alexander Dru (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1959).