I've been reading Richard Baxter's 'The Reformed Pastor' recently, and even from a lay perspective I'm just amazed at the wealth of value in this book. What I find so fascinating is Baxter's focus on the pastor who visits, teaches and knows his congregation on a personal level, which is something so uncommon with so many churches that I've been to. Baxter emphasizes personal catechizing and instructing of the flock, and this particular book addresses not only the many benefits of this approach, but even takes the time to respond to common objections to this approach. Do pastors even do as Baxter suggests, and keep a book with a list of their people, with "notes of their character and necessities?"
This could be a misapplication, but I thought of Baxter during the reading of Luke 10:25-37 this weekend on the Lord's day. The text describes the priest that walks past the mortally-injured man, crossing by on the other side so as to avoid personal contact. Is it that much of a stretch to apply that to pastors who teach once a week yet distance themselves from personal contact during the week with laity?
Baxter also emphasizes to me the problem I see with lay elders leading a church. Our previous church planted a sister congregation, pastored by two non-seminary educated men. And while I do agree there are occasionally rare exceptions of remarkable men who have pastored without seminary (Spurgeon) the bigger problem I see with this model is, these two men both have full-time jobs, a commute, and wives and children to devote time to (in addition to sermon preparation, in addition to the administration of the church.) How on earth could they practice a Richard Baxter-level of attention to the members of their congregation when their days are already packed full? They couldn't, and I think this speaks to the negative aspect of expecting laity to pastor, when it should be the responsibility of a full-time dedicated elder/teacher.
Baxter has really shaken the pastoral paradigm for me, and I'm really wondering why there isn't more shepherding of church members like this. Maybe there are just no shortage of objections, like "I do not thing that God doth require that we should thus tie ourselves to instruct every person distinctly, and to make our lives a burden and a slavery."