In the November issue of Christianity Today, there is a book review of Fred Sanders' newest book, The Creedal Imperative. In that book he states that our modern culture's greatest goal is “to be authentic and speak spontaneously,” whether or not anything of value is said. Therefore, we need creeds written down and followed as never before.
We in the CRCNA are a creedal church, and so we probably do not need that advice so much, but there is some advice that we just might profit from, especially as pastors. Having spent my entire ministry in pastoral work, I found it rather difficult to take creedal statements and position papers from the classroom to the streets and use them to actually reach people. But I have always felt strongly that there should not be a divide in substance between the two spheres of inside the church and outside. Do we not often criticize others for dumbing down the content to outsiders? When I was asked to write on the use of our position papers I decided to try to tackle this difficulty of mine and I welcome your feedback.
In preparing this I have interviewed a family nurse practitioner and a lawyer and they gave me some great insights. In those professions there are textbook cases and legal case laws. These weighty items are useful for teaching what their professions say on certain things but they are not useful when trying to apply either medicine or law to individual cases that are standing before the practitioner seeking help. In the words of the nurse practitioner,
“You never have a textbook case walk in your clinic door for there is always some underlying variance.”
So I asked her how she took the textbook case and applied it to the real case in front of her, and this is what she told me:
“You study the textbook case, then you study what your patent’s diagnosis is carefully with all your reports and tests present; you look for underlying factors like other illnesses, conflicting reactions and subliminal or suppressed causes. You consult with all the medical team involved. Then with the patient, you decide on a course of treatment.”
The more I talked with these two professionals the more I came to realize that their approach is the same one we as pastors can use when we approach a person not schooled in the faith when issues dealt with in our position papers come up. In the classroom situation, we read the position and then we take it or leave it. But out in the real world when the issues come up, we recall the textbook position and then we find out just where and how the one we are dealing with is “ill” on that topic. Then we seek to offer spiritual health and healing to bring them from where they are to where they need to be, all the time remembering: 1) that healing and health takes time and much effort, and 2) the background baggage that people bring with them is not going to be jettisoned the first opportunity we have to talk with them.
What do you think of this approach in utilizing the Position Statements? As a pastor, how have you used them?