Andrew Root, in The Relational Pastor, says it well: “Loneliness reveals personhood because loneliness is the confession of lost relationship; it is clutching to find your personhood… the feeling of loneliness is the closest experience that we have to death. It is to be dead to all others; it is to be alone” (61). That’s heavy, especially for an opener to a blog post. But Root presses on: “there is no humanity without relationship.”
He illustrates this by comparing an individual and functional model: boss, consumer, professor, voter — these are known for what they do and not for who they are to someone else. Personhood is typified in husband, wife, brother, sister, father, mother — that is, the husband husbands, the wife wifes, the brother brothers, the sister sisters, the father fathers, and the mother mothers. There are functions but the functions are only done to foster the relationship. When the functions dominate personhood diminishes.
What do you think of Root’s definition of pastoring in the mode of personhood below?
Personhood is a gift: you become a father or a mother or sister or brother or daughter or son not by choice but by existence and gift. You are called to share life with one another, and the sharing of the life is personhood. To live with in order to perform a function turns us into individuals. Friendship is the same kind of sharing of life — so this is not for married and parents but for singles and all of us. At its core, we are our relationships. Our relationships define our personhoods.
Personhood has no end other than presence.
Root says “friendship evangelism” needs to be seen for what it does: it “violates the personal” (66). It doesn’t love the person; it loves the idea; it is not friendship with the person but friendship with a hope for what an exchange might entail — conversion.
Now for pastoring: pastors can be defined by their functions — preaching, administrating, distributing sacraments, leading, guiding, declaring, telling, commanding.
Here’s what pastoring in the mode of personhood his about: “A person is a pastor because she or he is called by the Spirit to open her or his own spirit to the spirit of the flock…. What pastors do is pastor, and pastoring is the brave action of leading by opening your person to the person of the others so that together we might share in the life of God” (68).