I’m old enough (as are Dave Miller and William Thornton), to remember the old Baptist Program magazine. The SBC Executive Committee published it for years, and SBC Life replaced it some years ago. Chevis Horne often wrote for the Baptist Program, and he served for many years as the pastor of the FBC of Martinsville, Virginia. He wrote an article that I’ve pondered over several decades. In that article he posed the question: Should a pastor be more prophetic or more pastoral? In the article he made the point that the more you are one, the harder it is to be the other. In other words, if a pastor preaches prophetically, then it is harder to be pastoral.
How does this work in practice? For example, a pastor might preach a powerful sermon, condemning abortion. That sermon would be a prophetic condemnation of a social evil. Most Southern Baptists would affirm such a sermon. However, the pastor who preached the sermon might find it difficult to minister to a woman in the church who had submitted to an abortion. Or, a pastor might preach a sermon in which he condemned divorce. That might make it harder to minister to someone in the church who had been divorced and felt guilty about it. You get the idea.
In the article, Chevis Horne concluded by advocating an appropriate balance between being prophetic and being pastoral. After all, a local church pastor must be both—his congregation’s prophetic and its shepherd. I believe we would all agree with his conclusion, but it seems to me the hard part is finding that appropriate balance. It is fair to say that some pastors lean toward the prophetic, while others lean toward being pastoral. Clearly, both are important.
So, I’m putting the question to our Voices readers. Pastors may want to share their approaches to this dilemma, and our readers who are not pastors may wish to tell which they prefer. So, what shall it be? Prophetic or pastoral?