So, what makes a person a pastor?
Education? Clothing? Salary? Position? Teaching ability? Authority? A vote? Hair style? Speaking skills? White teeth? Integrity? Other things?
Certainly, most people would say that some of the items listed above are necessary. Some would say that others are not necessary. But, what makes a person a pastor?
Brant at “Letters from Kamp Krusty” is one of my favorite bloggers. I love his humor and sarcasm, because they always make me think. However, this time he’s written a very serious post called “Ministry without the People“. You should read it… all of it… and the comments. Brant tells the story of Rick, who was greatly inspired by his pastor and sought to get to know him better. Rick was disappointed when he could only get an appointment to spend 5 minutes with his pastor in the hallway. Brant uses this example to discuss how we can love “the People” without actually caring about people:
“It’s not realistic to be spiritual shepherd thousands of people,” — I know, I know. And I agree. But if you’re not my spiritual shepherd, why am I calling you my pastor? If it’s just teaching them, I could do that on the radio. But I wouldn’t be their shepherd.
I think it’s really easy for Pastors, for any of us, really, to love people. At least, I should say, love People, capital “P”, as in The People in Theory, the People Out There, the Sheep, the Idea of People.
It’s real easy to love The People. It’s much more difficult, much more challenging, much more exhausting, much more a test of the heart to love actual people: The people who work for you. The people in your home. The people who slip you a heart-rending note when you’re getting ready to impress The People.
Ministry is loving people you didn’t handpick.
Then, in a comment that is too good to leave in the comments, Brant says:
Regarding the “teaching pastor”: I guess I’m not sure what that is, exactly. Teaching is one gift, sure, and aren’t some given a pastoral gift? Biblically speaking, are we to believe they’re one and the same?
If they’re not, why are we using the term “pastor” out of context? If teaching a mass audience makes one The Pastor, can’t a radio or TV or even author host be The Pastor to me?
Again, I think this reflects confusion not only about what a pastor is, but what the church is, and is for, and what Jesus had in mind when it comes to “leadership”.
I think it’s fair to wonder if we’re redefining the term, in order to benefit those who like to teach, but would rather not do stuff that isn’t CEO or up-front stuff. Believe me, I understand them. Like I say, I’m a public speaker-type myself, and ministry would be great without the people.
Is “teaching pastor” a biblical concept? Where did that come from? These aren’t smart-aleck questions — I seriously don’t understand. If it’s someone who’s got a pastoral heart who gently loves and shepherds non-hand-picked people during the week, and then does the teaching, I guess I understand that. Otherwise, isn’t it just, “teacher”? Nothing wrong with that, right?
Regardless of how one wants to define the “pastor and teacher” of Eph 4:11, it seems clear that “shepherding” is part of that function. But, we have equated “pastoring” with “teaching” to such an extreme that we often think that we are shepherding when we are teaching. The two functions are not the same, although they certainly can be performed by the same individual.
“Pastoring” – “Shepherding” – “Caring for God’s people” – is very serious, very demanding, work. In fact, the ones that we look to as “pastors” and “leaders” should be the ones who demonstrate the best examples of caring for God’s people. Sometimes, I speak to large numbers of people. This is not pastoring. This may be teaching, and it may be important, but it is not pastoring. Yes, it can be part of pastoring. But, if all of my time is spent with large groups of people, then I am not caring for those people.
Pastors… leaders… get off the podium and spend time with the people. If you don’t have time for that because of your busy schedule, at least be honest and ask people to stop calling you “Pastor”.