Monday, February 19, 2007

pastoral work takes time

David Fitch has a great post on why a multiplicity of pastors are needed for any growing fellowship. And ideally, for any fellowship. I have been reminded again and again that pastoral work takes time. First I must describe what I mean by pastor. I see pastoring, or being a Pastor, as, in the Biblical sense, shepherding, or being a shepherd under the Good and Great Shepherd, Jesus. Like Peter, such work involves feeding and taking care of Christ's sheep (John 21). Of course we're taking on the Biblical analogy and model of likening us people to sheep.

To do this right takes a commitment of time. You cannot pastor well, if your work in listening to and getting to know others is marked by haste. While certainly, there will be either a tight or looser deadline one has to meet (normally), there should be enough time to, in a relaxing way, kick off the shoes, so to speak, and listen intently as well as converse. And of course this must begin at home. If we don't have time to do it there, than we don't have time to do it anywhere else.

This kind of work is, no doubt, demanding. But those gifted in this way need to give themselves to it. And such enjoy the opportunities. We must simply beware of following a model which may be worldly, and not Scriptural. Successful in the eyes of the world, but failing in God's eyes.

These thoughts lend all the more sense to David Fitch's point. The lone senior pastor, in today's church, may not make sense any more. Unless one is referring to a home church. Which hopefully would be joined to other home churches, each having at least one person who can pastor.

Jesus was the eminent model of this. His disciples, first, were with him. Then on mission. You learn by observing. Especially from those who impact you, directly. You then end up doing, what they did. This was surely true of Jesus' disciples. They did what he had done, in their own, unique, God-gifted way. And women with them, surely did the same. And we now have the Spirit of Christ to guide us in this same work.

I am assuming here that pastoral work is more than reading, studying and perhaps preparing a sermon, or a teaching time. Though that's an important, essential part, as well. It must include this shepherding of sheep. We sheep need to be taken care of, one by one. And in turn, sheep can begin to help other sheep.

What about your experience in this? Or thoughts you might have here?

8 comments:

Allan R. Bevere said...

Ted:

Thanks for the link; very insightful thoughts.

The key is that second step you mention in your post: to get the sheep to take care of others. I find that there are certainly people in the church who do that quite well, but there are others (too many, in fact) who want to cared for with no thought as to what their responsibilities are.

andre said...

I'm grateful for really pastors in our church. I think a lot of focus can be on structure - plurality of pastoral leadership vs lead pastor, bi-vocational vs vocational ministers, etc...

Certainly, as scripture says - "two is better than one" so if having a team of pastors is always better than a lone pastor, if possible. If you're in a small church, economics and available gifting may limit that.

In the end, I cannot help but think that it's not about organizational constructs... pastoring is about a calling from God - there's nothing worse than someone pastoring for all the wrong reasons. If you move to a plural leadership model and end up ordaining someone who isn't called, I'm not sure that is good. Gifting matters - God calls, he also equips. And, character matters - humility, integrity, etc...

Ted, thanks for the thought provoking post.

andre said...

Ted,

I omitted the word great when I started my last comment -

"I'm grateful for really [great] pastors in our church."

I didn't want to leave it open to interpretation. :-)

They really are great! They demonstrate humility, authenticity, care and a commitment to biblical truth. I know that my experience isn't common to some in the blogosphere...sometimes many comments or posts we hear about are concerning what's wrong in the church leadership...it's sad to hear that but there really are good pastors out there doing their thing. (not only in my church but all over)

Ted Gossard said...

Allan, That is such a challenge. It seems like some never are able to get past their own troubles and issues. And that's such an important part of where our pastoring should aim to lead others. So they can help and have their part in the work, as well.

Thanks. And thanks for bringing that up. Great point.

Ted Gossard said...

Andre, I couldn't agree more that one has to have this gift and calling to really be a pastor. And your other points as well. Character is even more important than gifting. Though both must be there.

And great to hear of your good experience. Thanks!

Charity Singleton said...

I am so thankful for the lay and staff elders in my church that really do a phenomenal job of shepherding a large church. Even though there are 3-4,000 people in our church, I know several of these elders well enough to feel comfortable seeking counsel. They have availed themselves to others in so many ways. Also, have a team of elders gives them opportunities to use their individual gifts of teaching, administering, counseling, etc. without forsaking the shepherding.

I have grown up in Christian traditions that typically teach that only men can be pastors and elders, but was so thankful to hear a Bible professor explain that these church "roles" or "offices" are not the only way to "shepherd." I feel called to "shepherd," so I extend this toward friends and women in my Bible study and the young gals I disciple. We really all do have part in looking after one another.

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, That's tremedous. Really good to see larger churches work hard to do well in this. And that you can use your pastoral gift, too. So important. And awesome!

Ted Gossard said...

And that professor, a good way of explaining it.

Though I don't find women pastors in opposition to Scripture. And our denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, has ordained them for 30 years. Recently, I've heard all wonderful sermons from a lady who with her husband is coming on board to pastor our church (he, as senior pastor, she counseling and filling in pastor). We are blessed!