The Pastor: Prophet, Or Priest? Maybe a Wesleyan Model Can Help.

“I set myself on fire and people come to watch me burn.” These words spoken by Father John Wesley have often moved me to want to be a “prophet”. “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” This admonition by Rev. Wesley has moved me to want to serve the people as one who is a priest. It has given me that nudge to want to go out and see people, visit people, talk with them, listen to them, pray with them, offer them words of comfort, share with them the sacrament of Holy Communion, listen to their doubts, fears, frustrations, and then pray with them offering absolution and blessing.

“We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others.” These words by Wesley seem to strike the balance in my life. Before I can speak as a prophet I had better attend to my own sins. But as I am preparing myself as an individual, I am not doing so that I may hide myself away as monk, or a hermit. NO! I am preparing myself to go and follow the master into the lives of broken people so that I may offer them healing. As I go I am carrying brother truth and sister grace. Brother truth is necessary in getting the diagnosis right and sister grace is the balm of healing itself.

So I am a pastor. The pastor doesn’t get to rush in proclaiming the holy oracles from on high, ripping and roaring, raging and stomping against the sins of the people; unless he/she is also willing to bring healing to the cuts and wounds and lashes brought on by the truthfulness of his/her message to the people.

As a boy the “evangelist” would come through at revival time and instead of announcing the evangelion or good news, he seemed more like the prophet that was ready to call down fire on the people. The intended purpose of his preaching often seemed as if it were to beat the people up and make them feel like crap. Usually several would “recommit” to the Lord, or get “sanctified”, or receive the “Holy Ghost” (or at least seek the experience). Far too often the response to the evangelist’s message would last a week or six weeks and in the end the person or people who responded would be “backslid” and in much worse condition than they were prior to the revival, conference, or campmeeting.
I have heard people say that what we need is a revival.I have also heard more than one pastor say that a revival can do more harm than good. I have also heard that before we can have revival we must have a reformation, then revival will follow.

I imagine that there is truth to all of that. But I wonder if the word revival or reformation are so subjectively understood by 2,000 years of Christianity and 20,000 different versions of Christianity that it is difficult to even have a meaningful conversation about what either might look like?
I think that people might get “pastor”, “prophet”, or “priest”. In my humble opinion, a pastor must be both prophet and priest. As a more conservative pastor you might see the BIG sins of individuals and you speak out, call them out, and give an altar call. Or the more liberal pastor might see the corruptness of the institutions, the systems of justice that work best for those with the most money, or the politicians who pass laws to “keep things they way that the “people want them”, even if they do great harm to the minority.

As priest you offer forgiveness, healing, restoration, and hope to the individual and the corporate body when they respond to the prophetic word of the man/woman of God. The priestly role is the softer side of the pastoral ministry, and in truth it is just as essential as the prophetic role as well.
So as a pastor you are both. You must be equally both. You must do these things, play these roles, fill the shoes, and be mentally and emotionally prepared for both. This is our God-given calling. It must happen out of divine call. It must be Christo-centric. It must be empowered by the Holy Spirit; otherwise, “unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing!” (John Wesley)

Think about it…


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2 Replies to “The Pastor: Prophet, Or Priest? Maybe a Wesleyan Model Can Help.”

  1. In light of Matthew 10:16, it is always interesting to watch as good collides with evil within the church. For there are those, as John Wesley counseled, willing to give and forgive forever. At the same time, there are those more than willing to fleece and even slaughter the sheep for personal gain. Their love of money is never satisfied. Forget the circus, when the former is a pastor and the latter constitutes the ruling faction within the congregation, it truly is the greatest show on earth!

  2. Wesley’s advised those in his connection to preach Christ “in all his offices” – the classic Reformed categories of prophet, priest and king. I think these map nicely as pastoral offices too; the moral suasion of the prophet, the intercession of the priest, and the authority and leadership of the king are all parts of the pastoral office. They are mutually reinforcing, because each would be ineffective if it was the sole approach taken by a pastor.

    Also, the quote you open with is a misattribution. A common one, but it’s found in Wesley’s corpus.

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