Pastor (teacher/shepherd)

Last blog I asked you at the end what you thought the main responsibility of “pastor”is… one who teaches or as one who shepherds. Today I simply want to help us dig a little deeper into that.

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Pastors/Preachers & listening
I recently read a section in Deitrich Bonehauffer’s book “Life Together” on listening and the importance of that in our life as Christ followers. In that section I felt there was a bit of a challenge to the position of (or maybe the functionality of) a pastor today (especially in the American church… which is obviously what I wrestle with more). Now before I go further, please hear me, we love our pastors and what they do as they lead the family of the church. But, I do wonder if there isn’t a piece that seems to get undersold as to what a pastor is and what should be modeled. It seems especially since the advent of the bigger mega style of church, it feels like that pastor role has almost taken on a CEO role… or maybe the inspirational voice for the church. The leadership of being a pastor has always been something that garners a following (I think especially amongst men), including a desire to emulate said leadership. But I wonder when that leadership is more separate from the congregation, and becomes mainly the inspirational voice for the church family, what happens to the other aspects of being a pastor?
In this section in Bonehauffer’s book he distinguished between brotherly pastoral care and preaching. So if preaching is becoming more “the thing”, what is happening with brotherly pastoral care (shepherding). Now, again, I want to clarify that I am not saying that the pastor has to carry on this role on an individual basis which each member of that church family. However, I am suggesting that this brotherly pastor care part should rise higher in the role than it seems like often it is. Listening in and of itself is a gift we give to others and it says I have the time for you, you are not an interruption. I believe it is when this kind of pastoral care becomes more of a common happening that it will be caught by others who will take on the role of pastors as well. Listening is more than having a solution for everyone that is laid out before you as to what a person may be going through as. It is the taking of time and really hearing another person, even if you don’t have a ready answer for them.
Along with the voice of counseling which really has as an important part in this skill of listening, this often seems to be a lost art in the church. If not a lost skill it is at least a skill that is not modelled well in front of our people. When a church goes on a search for a pastor, often what they are really doing is seeking for the best orator they can find that will attract people to their church. But, like Bonehauffer said the role of pastor has an obligation towards listening, not just speaking. But the pressure of Sunday services comes every week and a church is measured much more by how well that worship service is pulled off than how that church does pastoral care (listening being a big part of that).

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Can we admit that when we think about what our churches value most that the weekly worship service including the pastor’s sermon is what churches and their leadership value higher than the shepherding aspect of the church?
I will be visiting this for another time or two because I believe it is something that we need to sort out and see what it means for the church in America. But I am not at all saying do away with our regularly gathering as His people on Sunday morning… but it seems like in many ways we have settled on that.

Let me know what you think when you consider your own church.

4 thoughts on “Pastor (teacher/shepherd)

  1. As a person who sits in the congregation, I believe that we all are looking for the pastor to be all things; mentor, Shepard, and teacher, but the reality is no one person can be all things. So let’s look at how a pastor can do his job without killing himself. When you preach draw from your own life, it isn’t easy admitting that you have flaws but I can sit and say, “been there”, or “I know how that feels”. It is comforting to know that I am not alone. Secondly, put yourself out there to your congregation. It is easy to talk to people who have attended the church for a long time, or who always seem to be there when the church is in need of volunteers, but there are people who need the invitation to be more than just a Sunday guest. Let those folks who are there for you and their church to help offer those invitations.. Remeber they are there for the long run it is really their responsibility for the church to be viable not the pastors! Finally, continue to encourage us to look for God in each other. Maybe if we make a conscience effort to look for God, we can become a people who lives in a state of compassion, understanding, and peace!

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    1. Well said my friend!! and am glad you wrote about the pastor not being the all in all… but the encourager for the church to be the church. I also love the reminder of encouraging folks to look for God in each other!! It is Christ working in and through our lives. My musing about the pastoral role is really a wondering about why the shepherding and mentoring part of the church seems to be of a much less valued part of what we do as the church. It seems coming to watch the show on Sunday morning seems to get the biggest nod for too many folks to how they are “doing” or “being” the church. Thanks for your thoughtful response. It is an important discussion for the folks sitting in our church families to have!!

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  2. As a worship director for many years, it was my job to worry about what was done on Sunday mornings. The “show” as I hate hearing it called was my heart and soul and I put a lot of time and prayer and energy into making it happen. However, that said, I think love is what brings all of this full circle. Love the church, it is Christ’s bride. Love her, care for her, tend to her and cherish her. If a pastor loves his church, the fruit of his actions will follow. If that love is missing, no amount of “show” will matter.

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    1. Thanks for your perspective and for bringing it all back to the number one job that God has given to His people called the church. And I agree with you about not liking to hear it referred to as the “show”… the challenge it seems to me for the church is to truly allow that love to bring a church family together (in it’s various forms). So then what are those various forms and what really has the church leaned into most and expects their pastor/leader to have in order to get the crowd at their church and keep it there. Maybe more simply asked… have we made the work of presenting a compelling sermon each week so high on that list of those various ways to love the church family that the pastor is just responding to the overwhelming pressure to perform?

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