“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Just' a Pastor?

I was talking with someone recently about our church and he asked me about my role. When I informed him that I was the pastor, he asked a few more questions, such as 'have you authored any books?' etc.

When he found out that I had not written any books, and that our church didn't use illustrations that were sensational (i.e. driving an expensive car on stage), he made this statement -- "Oh, so you are just a pastor?".

I answered in the affirmative, and at the time it did not affect me; actually I am used to that response, but then as I got to thinking about it, I was bothered more and more by this statement.

JUST a pastor??? This is where we are at in our country -- unless you have authored a best-selling book, or you have a church numbering in the thousands, you are a failure in the eyes of many, even within the Christian community. At some pastor gatherings that I have attended, the first question that is asked is "How big is your church?" and when you answer 45 - 50, you almost feel the pity coming from other pastors.

I feel bad for the majority of pastors who pastor a smaller church and have never authored a book. It is no longer respectable to proclaim God's Word from the pulpit, and love the flock that God has entrusted to us; now we must be grasping for the golden ring that contains our 15 minutes of fame. A pastor isn't complete unless he is 'somebody'. What a tragedy! There is no higher calling than to be entrusted with a portion of God's flock, no matter what size!

Our problem is not that we have too few pastors that are also authors, but that we have too few pastors that are pastors! We do not mentor young men coming out of seminary in the role of pastoring; far too many come straight out of seminary and feel that they MUST be a Senior Pastor. In truth, these men should be mentored for two or more years.

Also, during the mentoring period they should also work in the community, interacting with the world around them. This enables them to understand the world in which most of their flock lives 6 days per week.

They need to serve in various roles within the church, from janitor, to children's ministry, to visitation. These folks need to understand the entire scope of ministry. Far too often the role models for young men are people who are 'successful' in the eyes of the world, but lack any pastoral concern or care. My first pastor was a true pastor, you would not know his name, and he never wrote a book, but he led me to Christ and he served his flock faithfully, sacrificing for them and loving them.

In many churches the role of caring and loving the flock has been delegated to a committee of people, while the pastor works on programs that will grow the church. Sadly, the first and foremost role of the pastor -- that is, the teaching of the Word and prayer, is relegated to the shelf, and the second most important role -- caring for the flock, which is an extension of reading and studying the Word and engaging in prayer, is delegated to a committee, while the pastor works on growing his influence.

We desperately need more pastors, and less 'Church Growth experts', 'best-selling authors', and self-aggrandizing men who put their reputation before their role.


Anonymous said...

Ray, don't ever write a book. If that will diminsh wht you are now. You are MY pastor, and (at least to me) makes all the difference in the world.


Even So... said...

Well said...hey, we had 68 a couple of weeks ago, so that makes me "big time", right? Right?...

Even So... said...

BTW, don't young Drs. have to do a "residency", why not spiritual doctors? Perhaps if we made seminary graduates have to go through 3-5 years of "residency" some of those who aren't actually called to this will "hang it up" before they think their smarts make them automatically qualified...

Ray said...

Dave - no matter whether or not I would ever be inclined, or capable, of writing a book, I will not stop being a pastor. That is what I am called too, anything else would be subordinate to that as long as the Lord has me in this role.

even-so, I actually used that example (doctors and the residency model). And the doctors serving in that role work all sorts of things, giving them a rounded experience. (oh, and by the way, congratulations on 68! :-) )

BugBlaster said...

Ray, I agree with your acquaintance: you are just a pastor. From my one visit to your church it is clear that you are a beloved pastor, that you are a truth teaching pastor, and that you love your flock. You are just a pastor. I think you should get a tat that says that.

BugBlaster said...

Hey JD, I want to add you to my list of bloggers I have met. I think you are just a pastor too.

Ray said...

Hmmm, a tat stating 'I'm Just A Pastor'... Nope, Glore would never go for that! :-)

Have a great Christmas everyone!

BugBlaster said...

You too!

Shawn Abigail said...

I found your blog through bugblaster.

Your profile sounds familiar. I work in telecom, and teach in a "Brethren" church. I also serve as a Deacon.

I think the problem is one of metrics. When you are a shepherd in the Biblical sense, or a Bible teacher, it is difficult to measure success. There is no "Christian Maturity and Theological Understanding Scale" by which we can measure a congregation at the beginning and end of the year to determine the Pastor's performance bonus. 8-)

On the other hand, if a congregation grows explosively, has a new building program or if a Pastor is writing tons of books and being interviewed by the secular media, this is easy to measure and to reward.

Unfortunately the most important things in life are the most difficult to measure quantitatively. And so we measure the things that are less important and hope that there is some sort of mapping to the important.

I see this in software development. The only meaningful measure of software quality is the number of bugs the customer will experience. But before we ship the product we don't know what this number of bugs is. So, we make other measures of quality and hope there is a mapping.

Finally, one side note about building programs. Why are kudos reserved for a man who convinces a church to take on more debt to build a bigger building, and we ignore those who year after year work to pay off the mortgage so that we can free up more money for missions (or for that matter, gasp, to pay the staff a living wage).

Ray said...

shawn abigail - thanks for visiting! I agree with your comments, and I too find that too much $$$ is spent on brick and mortar and a far lesser amount is spent on actual ministries.

Again, thanks for stopping by!