* Note this is a post I wrote in October of 2021 in the wake of the church in America figuring out what to do during Covid. I don’t think the opinions here are to groundbreaking or that my opinion has really even changed. I will say I think most people in ministry are just doing the best they can in trying to figure out how to reach people with the Gospel.
I’ve been wrestling with pastoral identity for over a year now. It has become more of an issue as of late as I’ve heard various individuals speak about their fortunate circumstances with mentorship and the coming alongside of shaping pastors. I will intentionally use the word pastor rather than leader because of the connotation.
Every time I see the word or vocation of pastor or shepherd in Scripture, the context is that it’s not enviable, outwardly desirable, nor a vocational activity that garners much attention. If the vocation would garner any following, it is found in its ability to protect, direct and instruct the sheep in hearing the voice of the shepherd Himself.
The role of a minister in Scripture is only regarded as fruitful in relation to how other people are equipped to do the work of ministry in order to pray in and become ambassadors of the coming and present, Kingdom of God.
Instead of the outwardly messy work of pastoral work, it seems that many have abandoned this work in favor of public speaking and the preservation of their own platform. I have a huge amount of respect for the ministry of preaching. Preaching the gospel is power unto salvation. As important as the spoken Word is, Paul is explicit that preaching is foolishness and primarily empowered by the Spirit Himself. What makes the Word of God powerful is the Word (Logos) itself which is why Paul can say of people who are using the Word of God for selfish gain, that he is happy that the Gospel is preached.
Because the message and work of Christ when proclaimed has far more power than the messenger, which is why anyone, in fact every believer, is called to proclaim the Gospel. Not every believer is called to pastoral ministry.
We often conflate the two because of our propensity to adore platform and power. If we asked a general populace who are the best pastors in America most people would name individuals with large platforms. To be fair a lot of people would also pick their own pastors. My theory is if you have that much of a platform, you probably don’t have time nor desire to do pastoral work, for all the reasons I previously mentioned above (not enviable, outwardly desirable, not garnering much attention and it being messy).
Furthermore, those that have large platforms, are likely missing the mark of how the church is meant to multiply. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians is stern in the issues that arise in following famous preachers, including himself, rather than Christ. The most prevalent is division. He goes on to say that his role is to remain faithful, humble and check it, have fatherly care for the flock. What’s that mean? That means neglect is not a characteristic of pastors. It also speaks to limitations. A person can only pastor so many people.
How would a large church solve that problem? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not financing a small scale graphic design and film company. It’s probably training up and equipping more pastors. If Covid taught us anything, it is that the Church was vastly wanting in its ability to equip the Church at large to do the work of ministry. It did show how quick we were to pivot to turning our local churches and pastors into televangelists. Instead, of going to my neighbor, it seems far more economical for the church to finance filming the pastor and worship team and tell my neighbors they can watch church from home.
I’m not so cynical to say that it’s all in vain. I am saying there is another way. A way that is far less appealing to the masses but more inclined to reach the masses. Reforming how we view pastoral ministry and the five fold ministry in the church. Equipping teachers, prophets and evangelists to the same degree, we willingly seem to equip a type casted pastor personality to the pulpit. Maybe less leaning into the conflict avoidant, passionate visionary or the bulldozing zealot and try for some empathy, sensibility, and humility. People who lead quiet and peaceable lives yet still let their light shine.