pastor or leader

Keith Giles has a good post about the conflation of the concepts and tasks of pastor and leader such that we think they mean the same thing.  He writes in part:

Beyond the obvious misuse of the word, the real danger is that we’ve completely redefined the verb “to pastor” so that it no longer has anything to do with loving people, caring for them, serving them, feeding them, strengthening them, making sure they are spiritually healthy, or anything remotely close to what a “shepherd” would do to take care of the sheep. Instead, we have reduced the term “shepherd” or “pastor” into the most narrow function – leadership.

I think Keith is absolutely right, and honestly, I think this is why so many “pastors” are burning out of ministry never to return.  The church current addiction to the notion of pastor as a “strong leader” (usually this is code for controlling).  Its also because of the commitment of most churches to the “extrovert ideal” that you read about in Susan Cain’s book Quiet.  Unless someone in the pastoral vocation is a “strong leader” (aka: an extroverted control freak) then we think he or she is not too good a pastor – so then, to even get work, many are forced to continually operate outside their personality and giftings to the point that they burn out.

Now I want to be careful here – this is not to say the pastoral vocation does not involve elements of leadership – in truth, we are all leaders, we all lead each other in various ways and the pastor/shepherd leads the sheep pointing them to Christ.  It’s just that I think we need to keep in mind more biblical models of leadership as seen in the life of Moses, David, Paul, even Christ himself in how we both understand and do leadership in a pastoral context.  This is not to say current models of corporate business world aspects of leadership are not applicable, but I think they need to be subordinated to the biblical models.  For a good book on spiritual leadership and the pastoral ministry consider Reggie McNeil’s book: A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders (Joesy-Bass).  Additionally, the best book out there on Christian leadership is Henri Nouwen’s book In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (Crossroad).

Blessings,

QTOD: on PhD’s in the Pulpit

From Mike Birds blog:

country churchIn the latest issue of ExpT there is a very good article by Gerald Hiestand on A Taxonomy of the Pastor-Theologian: Why PhD Students Should Consider the Pastorate as the Context for Their Theological Scholarship. The blurb reads:

The bifurcation of theological scholarship from pastoral ministry has led to a twofold problem in contemporary church/academy relations: the theological anemia of the church, and the ecclesial anemia of theology. This essay explores these twin problems and suggests that the way forward in bridging the gap between academy and church is to reunite the pastoral vocation with the vocation of the theologian. Toward this end, the essay offers a taxonomy of three contemporary models of the pastor-theologian, examining the strengths and limitations of each. Ultimately, the paper calls for a resurrection of an all but extinct, yet historically rooted model of the pastorate—the pastor as ecclesial theologian, and challenges the emerging generations of theologians to consider the pastorate as a viable context for their future theological scholarship.

Now you know why I have been wanting to subscribe to the Expository TImes for a while now.  🙂

Bird goes on to say:

When theology moved out from the church to the academy, the result was that “the theological water level within the pastoral community … fell considerably.” But not only that, the church became theologically anemic and theology itself became ecclesially anemic.  Hiestand argues that we need more capable theologian-types in our churches. “More theologians in our pulpits will deepen the theological integrity of our churches, while at the same time add an ecclesial voice to evangelical theology.”  He maintains that the theological integrity of the gospel in the Christian community will never rise above the level of her pastors and ecclesial theologians are best situated to produce ecclesially sensible, field-tested, theological work that deepens the faith and depth of the church.

I think this is exactly right, and I think it is also sorely needed in Pentecostal churches – all too many Pentecostal churches are in dire need of “contextual pastoral theologians” (as the program at Northern Seminary describes it).  Our movement is still young and developing.  By way and support of the Holy Spirit we need the help of trained theologians to guide Pentecostalism along the way, to prevent “theological anemia” in Pentecostal theology and praxis.

Now, here is what I want to say – this obviously is not for everyone.  This is not saying all pastors need to do this, but there is need for more.  Not all would be able to anyways, nor should they feel obligated to it or be made to feel lessor for a lack of it.  Instead, we need to do better to recognize the giftings of all and the contributions all can bring to the church, the body of Christ.   In many a Pentecostal church, even a basic MA is WAY TOO MUCH education.  But as I see it, it shouldn’t matter.  There can be equality without having to have everyone at the same educational level.  This is where things get weird.   What might be normal in other circles is an oddity in Pentecostal circles.  But I think times are a changin’.  Younger folks see the value of theological education and are going for it.  I think we’ll start to see things mature and develop theologically in Pentecostalism as more young people are getting good theological education in preparation for ministry.

So this is not mean to say all need to do this, or many more should, but I do think there is need for it!

Blessings,

on the pastoral ministry

Mark has a post responding to Brian LePort about academics in the church.  Well, Mark linked to an online interview with Eugene Peterson where he talks alot about his experiences as a pastor.  There is so much important and really good stuff there for small church pastors to be thinking about and that, really, should be an encouragement.

One really strong point about Eugene Peterson’s work is how so much of what he is says applies to pastoral ministry in general  irrespective of denominational affiliation.   If you are a pastor you are a pastor.  It is a vocation, a calling.  I don’t know if it really matters what denomination you associate with in effort to pursue your vocation (though I grant that some groups might make that a little easier than some others and some are a better fit for some than others, and it is even sadder that we’ve come to a place where many can no longer appreciate diversity in the body such as one’s Pentecostal friend or one’s Methodist friend or Presbyterian or Lutheran, Catholic etc.).  Pastors are people whom God has called to feed his sheep, to oversee the spiritual welfare of his people in their respective communities of faith.  They are pastors in their communities as well (towns and cities).  It really is a way of life and not just a job.  It’s a vocation.

Well anyways…

Here are some snippets:

I remain convinced that if you are called to it, being a pastor is the best life there is. But any life can be the best life if you’re called to it.

on how he became a pastor:

I think I was attracted to the intense relational and personal quality of this life. At the time I decided to become a pastor, I was assistant professor at a seminary. I loved the teaching, but when I compared it with what I was doing as an associate pastor, there was no comparison. It was the difference between being a coach in the locker room, working out plays on the chalkboard, and being one of the players on the field. I wanted to be one of the players on the field, playing my part as the life of Christ was becoming incarnate again in my community.

This is a good quote too:

We’re not a market-driven church, and the ministry is not a market-driven vocation. We’re not selling anything, and we’re not providing goods and services. If a pastor is not discerning and discriminating about the claims of his or her vocation and about the claims of a congregation, then the demands or the desires of the congregation can dominate what he or she is doing — and that creates the conditions for nonpastoral work.

Here is a segment that could go towards support for blogging:

I think the primary reason for wanting to leave was boredom. After one episode of boredom, I realized that the boredom was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention to things. It was like I was walking through a field of wildflowers and not seeing any of them because I’d seen them 500 times before. So I learned to start looking. For me, writing helped me see what I was missing. My writing became a partial cure for the boredom, because it made me look more closely.

Well, read on and be blessed!

on being a staff pastor

Rod Decker asserts the following:

I suspect that more seminarians these days are expecting and looking for a “staff position” (though it may have “pastor” in the title) rather than a pastoral ministry in which they will be preaching on a regular basis. That may be where some will function best, but I fear that many are underestimating what God could do through them in not aspiring to pastoral pulpit ministry. In most cases I would rather see a seminary graduate take a smaller church as “the pastor” rather than joining the staff of a large church. There is a place for “staff” roles, especially for those who may not have a solid local church background—perhaps having come to Christ during their university days and then come directly to seminary. Some of these staff positions may become life-long ministries (and that is legitimate in some cases); others may be for a few years to gain some experience. I would like to think, however, that these would be the exceptions rather than the usual pattern; unfortunately (I think) they have become the norm. A seminary grad will learn far more about ministry, about preaching, about the Bible and theology in two years of such ministry in the smaller church than they are likely to learn in twice that time as an assistant. Yes, they will make some mistakes—and learn from them. But hopefully their seminary training will have helped them avoid the worst missteps, and remember that seminary can never teach everything an aspiring pastor needs to know; it can never give them all the answers. But a good seminary program can give them the tools and teach them how to think and how to approach ministry. There is an excellent essay on this topic by Kevin Bauder, “It’s the Theology!” posted at <http://seminary.wcts1030.com/publications/Nick/Nick131.html&gt;.

I can say without hesitation, that this is true.  We learned a lot when we pastored at the Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim).  Sure, we made some mistakes but we learned from them and we moved on.  Rod isn’t knocking staff pastor positions, but I think more folk need to think about stepping out and taking thchurhces congregations, or planting them… That can be when can really take on all that is involved in the  pastoral vocation, especially the sacred talks of preaching, which is the topic of the article from which thesis quote is taken.

Dangerous Calling – 80% off @WTS Books!

WTS books is offering pastors, elders, & seminary students a new book on the pastoral ministry called Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (Crossway, 2012).

Here is a description of the book (there is also a DVD) and a comment about the author:

After traveling the globe and speaking to thousands of churches worldwide, Paul David Tripp has discovered a serious problem within pastoral culture. He is not only concerned about the spiritual life of the pastor, but also with the very community of people that trains him, calls him, relates to him, and restores him if necessary.

Dangerous Calling reveals the truth that the culture surrounding our pastors is spiritually unhealthy – an environment that actively undermines the wellbeing and efficacy of our church leaders and thus the entire church body.

Here is a book that both diagnoses and offers cures for issues that impact every member and church leader, and gives solid strategies for fighting the all-important war that rages in our churches today.

232 Pages
Published October 2012

About the Author:

Paul Tripp is a gifted and sought after speaker and the author of many popular books, including What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage, Age of Opportunity, and Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. President of Paul Tripp Ministries, he also serves as Professor of Pastoral Life and Care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and as the Executive Director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. He and his wife, Luella, have four grown children.

Here is a video:

on large churches

Eugene Peterson shares in his book, The Pastor: A Memoir,  a letter he wrote to someone who abandoned a study group he was in for a pastorate in a large congregation (the quote is only a portion of the letter):

I certainly understand the appeal and feel it frequently myself.  But I am also suspicious of the appeal and believe that gratifying it is destructive both to the gospel and the pastoral vocation.  It is the kind of thing America specializes in, and one of the consequences is that American religion and the pastoral vocation are in a shabby state.

It is also the kind of thing for which we have abundant documentation through twenty centuries now, of debilitating both congregation ad pastor.  In general terms, it is the devil’s temptation to Jesus to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple.  Every time the church’s leaders depersonalize even a little, the worshipping/loving community, the gospel is weakened.  And size is the great depersonalizer.  Kierkegaard’s criticism is still cogent: “the more people, the less truth.”

The only way the Christian life is brought to maturity is through intimacy, renunciation, and personal deepening.  And the pastor is in a key position to nurture such maturity.  It is true that these things can take place in the context of large congregations, but only by strenuously going against the grain.  Largeness is an impediment, not a help  (133).

What do you think?

cleaning the snake pit….

is it kind of like doing pastoral ministry?

HT: George P. Wood’s Facebook page who followed up the posting with the following:

Like all metaphors, we need to be careful how this one is used. For me, what it symbolizes is this: Pastors sometimes fail to do something out of fear for how their parishioners will respond. In my experience–and in the case of this cobra-pit cleaner–that fear is exaggerated.

of course and indeed is fear often exaggerated though too many churches have man venomous snakes in them (who are supposed to be Christians)… and it’s too bad really.

…. and of course the snakes are upset because the cleaner is taking their young (the eggs….)

New Book: USPS edition: The Pastor

Thanks to a good blogger buddy, I now have a copy of Eugene Peterson’s latest book, The Pastor: A Memoir (Harper One, 2011).   I did not know how big of a book it would be, but it is thicker than I expected and I look forward to reading it (though it seems like it has been quoted almost in its entirety on various blogs!  lol!).  For those who don’t know yet, here is a description:

In The Pastor, Eugene H. Peterson, the translator of the multimillion-selling The Message and the author of more than thirty books, offers his life story as one answer to the surprisingly neglected question: What does it mean to be a pastor?

When Peterson was asked by his denomination to begin a new church in Bel Air, Maryland, he surprised himself by saying yes. And so was born Christ Our King Presbyterian Church. But Peterson quickly learned that he was not exactly sure what a pastor should do. He had met many ministers in his life, from his Pentecostal upbringing in Montana to his seminary days in New York, and he admired only a few. He knew that the job’s demands would drown him unless he figured out what the essence of the job really was. Thus began a thirty-year journey into the heart of this uncommon vocation—the pastorate.

The Pastor steers away from abstractions, offering instead a beautiful rendering of a life tied to the physical world—the land, the holy space, the people—shaping Peterson’s pastoral vocation as well as his faith. He takes on church marketing, mega pastors, and the church’s too-cozy relationship to American glitz and consumerism to present a simple, faith-filled job description of what being a pastor means today. In the end, Peterson discovered that being a pastor boiled down to “paying attention and calling attention to ‘what is going on right now’ between men and women, with each other and with God.” The Pastor is destined to become a classic statement on the contemporary trials, joys, and meaning of this ancient vocation.

I am looking forward to reading this!

Quote of the Day: The Pastor

“…I want to insist that there is no blueprint on file for becoming a pastor. In becoming one, I have found that it is a most context-specific way of life:the pastor’s emotional life, family life, experience in the faith, and aptitudes worked out in an actual congregation in the neighborhood in which she or he lives – these people just as they are, in this place. No copying. No trying to be successful. The ways in which the vocation of pastor is conceived, develops and comes to birth is unique to each pastor.”

-Eugene Peterson from his new book just published The Pastor: A Memoir (HarperOne, 2011)

I think this quote alone is worth a million dollars.  It is (and should be) freeing to know the process of becoming a pastor is highly individual to each person – each pastor is different and each pastor should feel free to be who they are and function in the role of pastor as God has called them and as is befitting with their own personalities and makeup.  I don’t know if I can say any one pastor is better than another but to say some do “seem” to live out their callings as pastors more effectively than others.

But then again, if the process of a life lived as a pastor is unique, how can such a statement stand?  What is considered effective?  Who is considered a “good” or “bad” pastor?   I think I can make such a statement because of a concept called “pastoral identity.”  Some pastors reveal a strong and healthy pastoral identity (which is a kind of sense of security in one’s calling and vocation as a pastor) whereas, I know there are others who have more or less weaker senses of pastoral identity, they do not seem to be as comfortable with their calling or vocation (which could call into question the validity of such) – I would suggest those with stronger pastoral identities are “more effective” in their callings than those who are not primarily because they are not trying to be something they are not.

Seems to me that anyone who is a pastor should read this book and those struggling with their own sense of pastoral identity should seriously consider reading this other book by Peterson.

You can learn more about the book here.

on pastors as servants and stewards

I am reading this book: Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic (Zondervan 2009) right now (which is pretty good and if you’re in ministry and tired, you should get it too – it will help).  Burn out can affect our whole being and life: spiritual, emotional, physical, even relational health.  Throughout the book the author has short little interviews with pastors from around the country who have burned out (or came awful close to it) and survived to tell about it (or even in some cases, lived to tell about it, literally).  In the section about getting back to Spiritual health, she interviews a pastor in Texas named Matt Carter.

A.J.: Do you see the current Western church as being ineffective in reaching people with the gospel and growing them?  why?

M.C.: Pastor Bob Roberts asked the question in a recent book, “If we (the church) could plant one thousand mega-churches all over the United States over the next ten years, wouldn’t we be able to completely change this country for the cause of Christ?  The answer Pastor Roberts reached was, “No.”  Why?  Because that is exactly what the church in the United States did over the last ten years.  We planted over one thousand churches that have grown to more than two thousand members apiece; and yet, per capita, there are fewer people going to church today than ever before in the history of our countrySomething is terribly wrong.

Why is this occurring? I think there are several reasons, but I’m personally convinced that one of the main reasons people in America are leaving the church in droves is because there is severe biblical malnourishment in the body of Christ.  They are leaving in droves not because we aren’t clever enough, not because we don’t have enough resources, but because people come to church, are entertained, and the leave starving, anemic, and utterly ineffective for the kingdom of God.  I believe this is a direct result of pastors not fulfilling primary responsibilities God designed for them through Scripture (130).

Here is the part I wanted to get to but felt I had to include the above for this to make better sense.

A.J.: What do you see as the primary responsibilities of pastors and church leaders?

M.C.: In Scripture, we see two primary responsibilities of the pastor: servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  The apostle Paul wrote, “Men ought to regard us [pastors] as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.  Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful’ (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).  Unfortunately, so many pastors view themselves first and foremost not as servants of Christ, not at those responsible for stewarding the deep things of God to their people, but rather as servants of the church! I grew up in a church that expected the pastor to be available to meet the every whim and need of every congregant.  If someone needed to meet with him, he better be available!  If someone was in the hospital, he better go!  If someone needed to meet with him, he better be available!  If he spent too much time on his sermon rather than with the people, it was said of him that he was “a good preacher” but “not a good pastor.”  Although hospital visitations, meetings, and coffee times with the church are important, Scripture reveals that they are not the pastor’s primary responsibilities.  Being a servant of Christ and a steward of the deep things of God are (130-131).

In view of Mark’s post the other day, perhaps not just pastors and leaders, but Christians in general are burning out of church and or ministry because there is first malnourishment in the pulpit (though not in all cases) and second, because there is confusion and perhaps conflation of roles and responsibilities within the congregation?

If pastors are doing everything or more than they should, they will burn out, fast.  And it seems, that burn out is not limited to just pastors.  Even the rest of the folk can burn out when trying to do too much or when they function outside of their proper or spiritually gifted roles within the body (and when they are not taking care of themselves adequately).

Finally, any thoughts about the pastor’s primary role being servants of Christ first and foremost (not servants of the church) and then as stewards of the mysteries (the deep things) of God?