Monday, October 01, 2007
Pastor as ward heeler
From Blue Collar Ministry by Tex Sample:

The key to the power of the political machine was the ward heeler, the person who had a thoroughgoing knowledge of the ward. The ward heeler knew who needed a half ton of coal, who needed a job, who needed help with a hospital bill, or whose taxes were overdue, and so on. The ward heeler knew where the trade-offs were and where a bargain could be struck that would meet the needs of disparate parties and turn them into a coalition.
First, it is a role that can work in the complex relationships found in church and community.... Second, when properly conceived and practiced, it addresses the question of dignity in the relationships between pastors and working-class people (134-35).
Makes me think of Karl Malden's priest character in On the Waterfront, in one of my favorite all-time scenes in a movie.

Aaron's got me reading some Tex for my independent study. Tex spends about two-thirds of this book just describing the social framework of working-class white people. And at about this point he's got this great chapter about the role of pastor as "ward heeler." It has historic precedent in the 19th and early 20th centuries when politicians would work the streets to gain peoples' favor in exchange for votes. It may sound crass on the surface, but the process of quid pro quo and the idea of reciprocity are hard-wired into people.

For many of us, we've forgotten ministry is a two-way street. To give and give and give and never let the "poor and needy" give to us robs them of some of their imago Dei human dignity. I mean, think of the quid pro quo of the cross. Is that manipulation? Jesus died with an agenda. So we love God because he first loved us.

And so maybe one day the world will love the Church because it sees the Church, the bride of Christ, acting on behalf of Jesus, first loving the world.

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posted by Peter at 6:32 AM
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