The hard work of the pastor

I think we can fall into one of three traps if we are involved in church pastoral ministry.  At the one end of the spectrum are those who see pastors as basically chaplains, nice, homely sorts who are primarily employed to go round and visit the elderly church members and drink copious cups of tea. Now, from my perspective, an afternoon chatting over coffee and cake with a couple in their 80s as they reminisce about years gone by is a pleasant and enjoyable thing.  But looking after the elderly, vulnerable and lonely, being family to them is something that that whole church should be involved in. We shouldn’t be outsourcing it to the pastor.

At the other end of the spectrum is the pastor who sees his realm being that of the study and the pulpit.  He loves reading and he’s good at communicating. That was spotted many years ago at University and so he was encouraged via a Ministry Training scheme to go on and study theology.  Not to put too fine a point on it, if he can get from study to pulpit without too much human interaction, then he will have had a good week.

The third kind of pastor is the vision caster.  They have a strategy to grow the church and reach the city. They are at home in committee meetings, at workshops and on the platform at conferences.  They have whiteboards and power-point presentations and are not afraid to use them.

Given that a lot of the input we get through books, blogs and podcasts so often comes from senior pastors of megachurches and super large churches where they have a significant sized staff team and it would be impossible for them to know the lives of individual members, there is, I think a risk that much of evangelicalism is influenced by a combination of the second and third.  Conservative Evangelicalism leans to the second and compared to the first two, it seems worthy.

I want to suggest that the work of the pastor should be something different again.  I read the memoirs of a long serving pastor, now with the Lord, a few years back and he talked about how he had realised that he could either be the kind of pastor who was like the modern farmer, sat on the tractor or the combined harvester, allowing the machinery to do the work and enjoying the ride. Or, and this is the thing he was called to, the thing the church needed, he could get off the tractor and get his hands dirty, making sure the ground had been ploughed correctly, removing rubbish and weeds, checking on the growth and health of the crops.

This kind of pastoring doesn’t exclude time in the pulpit.  Preaching and teaching will be central to the role. Nor, does it mean that he doesn’t occasionally get out the flipchart and start talking strategy.  However, this kind of pastor realises that he needs to spend lots and lots of time with the flock. 

This means he’ll find different opportunities to be with people one to one and in small groups. That might include:

  • Visiting individuals and families in their homes.
  • Hospital visits.
  • Walks, coffee shops etc.
  • Being committed to hospitality and welcoming people into his own house.
  • Meeting members in their place of work.

The difference from the first type of pastor listed above is to do with the intent and content of these meetings.  He isn’t simply there for a coffee and a chat, though no doubt there will be coffee and chatting.  Rather, he is there to make disciples. He’s there to help the church member’s face the specific circumstances they find themselves in, not just to survive them and find comfort but to thrive and be holy. That’s the big and exciting aim and role of the pastor.

It’s worth saying two more, linked things about this.  You see, I don’t think that our Sunday preaching should be disconnected from our weekly meet ups and one to one discipleship.  I trust God to speak through the preaching and for God’s Word to be relevant to current circumstances of the flock.  We are after all meant to be feeding them.  So, when I meet with people, I want to help them link up what is happening in their life today (whether Monday, Wednesday or Friday) with what was said on Sunday. When I preach on a Sunday, I also want to be able to link what I say in public to the gathered church with what they are learning and experiencing in the week.

This means first of all that my visits to church members and my hospitality are part of my preparation for Sunday.  I don’t just prepare my sermons in the study with my books, I prepare them in day to day life with others. 

Secondly, it means that my preparation in the study is not just for my sermons and Bible studies with large groups. It’s as much about preparing for those one to one and small group meet ups.

1 comment

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: