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,

Pope Francis I on ‘the Cross of Christ’

via Pastor Dan’s blog:

From Pope Francis I’s first homily:

Pope Francis praying at Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore basilica“We must always walk in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, always trying to live in an irreprehensible way,” he said in a heartfelt homily of a parish priest, loaded with biblical references and simple imagery.

“When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we proclaim Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly,” he said.

“We may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, all of this, but we are not disciples of the Lord,” he said.

He said those who build on worldly values instead of spiritual values were like children building sand castles on a beach. “Then everything comes crashing down,” he said.

More HERE.

Sounds like things are already off to a GREAT start!

Dave Black’s Paul, Apostle of Weakness

is now up on Amazon.  Here is a snippet from Chapter 5 that he posted on his blog:

In another vein, Paul can also use the words in several instances in the specific sense of bodily weakness, i.e., physical illness, thus approximating the fundamental usage common to all literature in antiquity. He clearly uses the root for sickness with reference to Epaphroditus (Phil 2:26-27), Timothy (1 Tim 5:23), and Trophimus (2 Tim 4:20), his close companions in the gospel ministry. Paul probably uses the root for sickness with reference to himself when he speaks of an “infirmity of the flesh” as the cause for his initial preaching of the gospel among the Galatians (Gal 4:13).

If we are correct in concluding that Paul is referring to a physical infirmity, we can think of this weakness as a particular disease or ailment, the specific diagnosis of which is, however, a mystery. Cases of illness among Christians in NT times indicate that the apostolic commission to heal (cf. Mark 16:18) could not be effected indiscriminately to heal oneself or one’s friends. Normal means of healing were available for Timothy’s gastric problem, for instance; and even in the company of Paul Trophimus became too ill to travel any further.

The classical Pauline passage on illness (2 Cor 12:7-10) is in this respect most striking of all, in that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” remained with the apostle despite even the most intensive prayer for its removal. Paul states three reasons for its existence: to keep him from becoming proud because of his revelations and visions (v. 7); to enable him to experience the power of Christ (v. 9); and to teach him the true purpose of hardships, persecutions, and personal difficulties (v. 10). Indeed, the entire passage is concerned more with the power and grace of the Lord than with the weakness of the apostle. Physical infirmity is evidence that the body “is sown in weakness” (1 Cor 15:43) and is a cogent reminder of the creature’s dependence upon the Creator. In this respect, the case of Paul is remarkably like that of Jacob, who learned to depend totally upon God only after he had been inflicted with a physical injury (Gen 32:24–32).

These instances of illness show that the real issue in the matter of human suffering is our relationship to God rather than our own physical condition, as painful as it may be.

Dave is going through a difficult time right now with his wife Becky being so ill and in the hospital (all this you can read about on his blog)m he doesn’t just write this stuff, he lives it – be lifting them up in prayer and show your support and encouragement to him by buying a book and sharing about it on your own blog!

Some new books

Thank you to the anonymous donor of a few new books that showed up in my mailbox yesterday!!  (Well, I hope they were for me and not sent to my address on accident!  lol!)  It was very gracious of you, kind person!   Thanks so much I really appreciate it!

Here is what they are:

Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (IVP).

Gordon Fee’s New Testament Exegesis (WJK).

Gordon Fee’s Paul, the Spirit and the People of God (Baker).

Jurgen Moltman’s The Trinity and the Kingdom (Fortress).

So… pretty much , nothing less than the BEST!!  🙂

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?

Eugene Peterson on The Book of Acts

Acts is not a manual with blueprints and a set of instructions on how to be a church.  Acts is not a utopian fantasy on what a perfect church would look like.  Acts is a detailed story of the ways in which the first church became a church.  A story is not a script to be copied.  A story develops a narrative sense in us so that, alert to the story of Jesus., will be present and obedient and believing as we participate in the ways     that the Holy Spirit is forming the Jesus life in us.  The plot (Jesus) is the same.  But the actual places and circumstances and names will be different and form a narrative that is unique to our time and place, circumstances and people.

Churches are not franchises to be reproduced as exactly as possible wherever and whenever – in Rome, and Moscow, and London and Baltimore – the only thing changed being the translation of the menu.

But if we don’t acquire a narrative sense, a story sense, with the expectation that we are each one of us uniquely ourselves – participants in the unique place and time and weather of where we live and worship – we will always be looking somewhere else or to a different century for a model by which we can be an authentic and biblical church.  The usefulness of Acts as a story, and not a prescription or admonition, is that it keeps us faithful to the plot. Jesus, and at the same time free to respond out of our own circumstances and obedience.

Eugene Peterson – The Pastor: A Memoir (HarperOne, 2011).

Quote of the Day: Pastor as Theologian

Mark is taking about the role of the Pastor as a “Theologian in Residence” and I liked what he wrote about that today:

A helpful metaphor in understanding my own vocation as a minister is, “Theologian in residence”. It is important that this metaphor not be used as permission to lock myself away in the Minister’s study and pour over scripture and the church fathers seeking to develop my own theological agenda. Rather it is permission to escape ministry as a business or management. It helps me to see my role as more than the day to day needs of the church. It is a vocation explored within the context of the community for the community. The distractions that I mentioned are the very outworking of Christ’s ministry in our midst. The phone call, the visits, the paperwork and even the sermon preparation are the necessary tension to theological reflection. As Eugene Peterson might say, ,“this is where we see Christ at play” and where we reflect on the nature and work of God revealed to us! It is in ministry that we find a playground for the unpacking of our theology.

I love the notion of being able to escape ministry as a business or management.  The vocation of Pastor isn’t about managing people or trying to tell them what to do and so on – it is about ministering the presence of God in people’s lives an pointing them to Christ our hope and life.  Good post!

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?