Truth In Labeling

In recent weeks, I’ve run across a new phenomenon in church leadership. It is that of the long-distance Pastor. As in, the person with the title of Pastor jets back and forth every week between his/her home in City A and his/her employer, a church in city B. These people tend to be the Communicators – the magnetic Sunday morning teachers who draw the crowds, or the gifted high-level strategists working behind the scenes.

For years, conference speakers, traveling teachers and evangelists have lived their ministry on the road, returning home to recharge before launching out again. Before that, there were circuit riders going from frontier congregation to frontier congregation, preachin’ `n marryin’ `’ buryin’. And wayyyy back before that, Acts tells the story of people traveling to preach the gospel and plant/oversee widespread congregations.

This new breed of traveling pastors seems to have more in common with business execs (hired hands) who do this live-in-Boston-work-in-New York lifestyle, however, than they do with, say, circuit riders. Without either demonizing the A to B and back again pastors or romanticizing circuit riders, I find myself wondering how the title ‘Pastor’ applies here.

It is the perogative of these large corporate religious organizations to recruit and hire top drawer talent, I suppose. I just wish they would give them a different title. I can’t imagine how anyone could fully “Pastor” people when he or she spends part of each week living several hundred miles away from the community in which the church is located, and all that energy maintaining a life in two places. (Really, how can you be two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all?) I have a couple of dozen questions floating around in my head on this trend, flitting in and out through the images of mustard seeds and fig trees tattooed on my brain.

But maybe these flitting thoughts need to land on one of your ideas. Your thoughts? Am I missing something here? Any experience with this phenomenon?

About Michelle Van Loon
  • Hi, I’m Dee

    Hi, Michelle.

    When I think of pastoral theology I don’t see the modern fly-rev to be a pastor, but more of an evangelist. Pastors, traditionally, feed or care for an individual soul.

    I know many pastors and friends who belong to a [mega]church, whereby they don’t know the pastor personally and have been taught and subsequently believe that is fine to not have a personal relationship with their spiritual leader. I find that idea problematic, because I still hold to the traditional ideal.

    I belong to a very large church with over twelve ministers. And I know them all personally, especiall y the senior pastor. He is adamant about the congregation having a family feel, a personal touch, so I am spoiled by that. :) I love it. Grateful for it.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Hey Dee -

    “Fly Rev” – that’s spot on. :)

    You are blessed to have access to a relationship with your church’s leadership. It sounds like you have a team of pastors (the dictionary definition kind of pastors) caring for your soul. And, I daresay, those pastors have the opportunity to be connected to actual people – people like you – in their congregation.


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