I have a high view and respect for the pastorate and calling to minister vocationally in Jesus’ name. To step out in faith and trust that God will provide despite the expectation of near-poverty and much sacrifice. What is more, I believe that the local church should support the pastor in ways in which most have no clue how. I believe that pastors are servants of the people and while most are leaders who vision cast as well, I believe they are to let the people and leaders drive through God’s anointed calling. I believe many pastors function like CEOs, which is probably the easiest infrastructure, but questionably biblical.
I have gone round and round as to how a pastor is to function within the realm of the church. Are they the visionary, executor, servant leader, boss? Are they simply the one who is like Moses who seeks God’s face to hear what he might have for the people, similar to prophets who hear from God and warn or encourage the people? Nehemiahs or Ezras who re-build the temple and walls of protection and preparation all the while carrying a sword and brick in each hand?
When in seminary I recall a “capstone-type” course that went through all the roles of a pastor. In a matter of 15 minutes we had 83 roles on the board. And we probably could have kept going! The pastorate is this matter of balancing expectations (yours and others), calling by God, discovering needs of a community, leading outreach efforts beyond the walls of a place, and seeking God’s face on behalf of a community as its leader/shepherd.
Where does this stem from today? Why bring this up? The concept of being a recovering pastor echoed in my head this morning. I feel like a horrible person when I say that I hate Sundays, but my brain, body and stuff in my insides just cringe. I’m not filled with guilt, other than the fact that I do believe in the church and yet I am in flux with her; but I’m in this discovery stage of discontentment with what is and uncertainty of what is to be. I realize this world is filled with imperfection and pain, and that is part of what I’m experiencing. It’s just hard.
That’s the statement I’ve been using for years now. And it’s true. Life is hard. Faith is hard. Being unselfish is hard. But so is being selfish, in a way. I mean, I’m being selfish in ignoring the “hard” while suffering the pain of it. I find myself wanting just to ignore the issue(s) and distract myself. I listened to a few messages today (as if that’s some substitute for church), but I got distracted fairly easily and welcomed it. I knew I had to write this out of my system, read the Word and other faith-building things, but I find it hard and so many other things to do instead.
Am I a recovering pastor? I think I am in the way in which I pastored. Can I be any good to others seeking and being called to that ministry? I have this pervading guilty assurance that I can. Yet the paradox of it confuses my solitary being.
I miss “church.” I realize now that it’s much about community. A church service is about lifting up God as worthy, holy and Lord. All of life is, for that matter, but a service allows us to gaze upon Him and re-route, if need be, our focus on Him fully. But it’s about doing that as a body. Communal worship, a common Scripture in which to focus on as a body and simple friendships, knowing that you’re not alone and that people care are imperative. There’s also tremendous value in the resourcing available much like the early church.
And yet, the delivery of one person’s message will encourage or hinder all of that. So what is the message in that list of functions? It’s simply the pointing and expositing of the text in which the body might engage. But what kind of engagement is there? Small groups serve a tremendous purpose in that engagement. Intentional interaction and discussion within or after the service can also be of rich value. But so many churches skim over the elements only to highlight the message. I would say “Word,” but often times it’s a spattering of topics that get tossed around creatively instead of meaty texts. How many folks can walk out to their car, drive home and recall what text, topic or emphasis was that day. One might answer, “There was a lot in there . . . “ or “I remember this one thing.” While that’s great, I often wonder if we let the text do the talking or we talked for the text. Delivery certainly plays a huge part in that; I just don’t know . . . I wish I did better at focusing and leading towards a function of worshipping God THE One AS one.
In typical abrupt conclusion, I serve/work daily contributing to the church, both directly and indirectly, yet I don’t know what to make of it. Truly the Augustine quote was right about the mother/whore – and God started that concept with Hosea and Gomer. I can’t tell you how true that is for me. I’m beat from these thoughts. I guess it’s true . . . . I’m a recovering something. But so are we all.