The Primacy of Pastor-ing (by T)

The Primacy of Pastor-ing (by T) February 16, 2015

This post by T.

The Primacy of Pastor-ing

Just a few posts ago, John Frye put up a controversial post here, titled “The Primacy of Pastor” which received not a little push back, including from me. For this post, though, I’d like to focus on what I hope can be a source of at least some agreement with the spirit, if not the letter, of John’s post. As some folks mentioned in the comments. The issue is really one of ecclesiology. On that front, I want to offer this as a way to move us forward.

So first, the title. What do I think pastor-ing is, and why do I think it’s primary? In a nutshell, I think:

Pastoring is what you get when love of others grows up. Pastoring is looking out and working for the health of individuals, families, communities. Asking what pastoring includes is like asking what mothering includes, or what being a good friend includes. The answer is “whatever is necessary.” And because growing people up in Christ, in Love, is so central to God’s work on the earth, pastoring is central to God’s work on the earth.

One thing I didn’t say that the office or gift of pastor is central, though I certainly hope that those with the title of pastor, elder or even deacon are leading examples of pastoring. But sometimes (a lot) I think we get too focused on offices and miss the building they reside in, which is one of the points of this post. So, let me be clear. If the folks we often call “pastor” are the only ones pastor-ing, if being on the church payroll is a prerequisite to pastor-ing, we’ve lost. It’s over. Pastor-ing is bread and butter, love of one another, grown-up style. We need more of it. From everybody.

But let me put this whole discussion in a context that I think is especially helpful, and even necessary (though often lacking). Specifically, I want to look at church, the people and children of God, through the lens of familial relationships. Now, when I say “familial relationships” in this discussion of pastoring, what role do you think of? Father? Brother? Crazy uncle? I think one of the main problems the church faces today is a failure to see ourselves and others in our correct way in the family of God. Consider this bit of instruction from Jesus, which I think is pointed directly at this very problem (emphasis added):

“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people. But as for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven. And do not be called masters either, because you have one Master, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.’”

For now I want to ignore the commands not to call or be called by various religious titles (we’ve ignored those for centuries, what’s a minute more?), and I want to focus on the “because” Jesus gives. The reason we are to be cautious about these titles and roles we give or take, even if we are apostles, is because of who Jesus wants to be in relation to us, and because of who we are to be in relation to each other. To whatever extent the greatest command(s) matter, then this matters, because it frames our dealings with God, and with others in the church. This is first order business. Regarding Jesus, he is to be, among other things, our Teacher above all other teachers. And we (and this is where I want to focus for this discussion), even the leaders, we are to be “brothers.” No one in the church should be more your “teacher” than they are your “brother,” at least not for long. I think one of the worst things that has happened in the family of God is that a functional and robust and truly mutually beneficial brotherhood among all believers has been swallowed, eclipsed, or just plain forgotten. But it is, IMO, to be the ground work of our ecclesiology. In classic co-dependent ways, we’ve tried instead to put as much of the work of the whole family of God on a few paid experts whom we treat (and charge) more like fathers than brothers. John mentioned in his earlier post that “pastor” is so much more prevalent in the scriptures than the other so called five fold offices or gifts. So true. But the more dominant, dare I say thematic push in the New Testament regarding corporate life in Christ’s church isn’t about any office or gift, but about a functional and highly fruitful brotherhood in the family of God, which is shaped by, powered by and reaching toward the love of Father, Son and Spirit. The bulk of the commands for church life are expressed in the many “one-anothers” of the NT, which are too numerous to include here. The center and operational strength of church life isn’t supposed to be found in any leadership person, role or team, but shoulder to shoulder in the whole body. Regardless of what gift one person has, and regardless of how great a given paid pastor is, the church is baptized in water and the Spirit—and in the love of God!—to bear the lion’s share of the load of “pastor-ing” by loving one another with increasing maturity and wisdom. In our evangelical ecclesiology, such as it is, we don’t need most, IMO, to shore up any particular office or gift. We need to shore up something more fundamental, something lower, something deeper. We need to shore up the significance and call of our baptism and the familial love we are to practice from top to bottom of the church. Brothers, don’t call anyone “father” (and thereby increase their responsibility and decrease your own). Pastors and leaders, don’t let anyone call you “Rabbi” (and make you a go-between between them and Jesus). Yes, those who lead and teach (as older brothers) are worthy of double honor. Those whom we appoint and rightfully pay to give their full time work to pastoring the church are worthy of respect and support and cooperation! But that’s not supposed to overshadow all the Spirit-powered one-another-ing that is the powerhouse and central call of the church. In our day, when a charismatic leader leaves or falls, the church is so often on the verge of disintegration. Why? Because the church was more like a large family of young children whom the father deserted rather than a commune of 40 mature brothers who had leaned on and helped each other in deep ways for years. If pastoring doesn’t multiply all across the fellowship, if love doesn’t grow up, the church is immature and vulnerable and dependent, not on each other, but on the pastor. Welcome to Western Christianity. But it does not have to be this way.

One additional, theological, lens for this, by way of contrast, is the ancient story of Cain and Able. Consider Cain’s story for a moment. Cain not only hated and killed his own younger brother out of jealousy (and religious jealousy at that), he then famously asked God, when God asked Cain where Able was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” If I may be so bold, just as Jesus, the Good Shepherd—is the ultimate prototype of what a pastor is and does, Cain is perhaps the best picture of the anti-pastor.  As John said in his initial post, Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the thing that makes him the good shepherd is that he lays down his life—in love—for the sake of the sheep. Cain, who should have been lovingly protective and helpful toward his brother, was and did the opposite. He was murderously jealous of his brother. The one he was called to pastor, not as a father, but as an older brother, he killed out of jealousy. Let me say clearly that mature love of one-another is the soul of pastoring, which includes mutual respect and submission to one another. Pastoring is central to the Church being the Church because mature love is central. We don’t have to be someone’s “father” in the faith to be an agent of mature love in the context of mutually accountable community.

When Jesus predicted Peter’s denials, he added at the end: “but when you return, strengthen your brothers.” Peter didn’t have to be their father-figure to strengthen them in Christ, or even to lead. He could and did do so as, in Christ’s words, their brother. And today, we still affirm and appoint as our elders and overseers (or should) those of our brothers and sisters who are the most established and practiced in love and wisdom. And we need the benefit of their maturity in Christ for good pastoring in the Church and their example(!), regardless if their primary gifting is teaching, evangelism, administration, etc. Yes, some are more gifted here or there more than others, but gifts and offices don’t make us who we are, or determine our family bonds. And who we are, in relation to God and each other, and the love we all share must outshine and shape all these things.  Think of this: just as most folks who convert to faith in Christ aren’t led to faith in Him by evangelists but by Christian friends, so most people who are strengthened and guided could be built up in this way not only by the very few professional pastors, but by brothers in Christ.

Do you see your pastor more as a father-figure or a brother? In what ways do you see codependency at work in your church (which often looks like over burdening the pastor(s) and absolving rank and file from responsibility for each other? What do you feel your baptism, in water and Spirit, charges and empowers you to do? Where do you see the biggest weakness in evangelical ecclesiology? At how pastors understand themselves and their role, or how congregants understand themselves and their role? Which parts or activities of the body to you see as most in need of encouragement and shoring up?

 

 


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  • Thanks, T. While I understood and appreciated some of the points John made in his post, I also came away with the sense that he was using the word pastor to refer only, or primarily, to professional pastors, which distorts the whole picture. I appreciate your comments.

    I am a bi-vocational pastor in a small urban church in a low-income multi-ethnic community (hilltopurban.org) . For our first 26 1/2 years we had a full-time professional pastor. As we learned how to grow indigenous leaders from our neighborhood, he came to feel that he needed to leave if our leaders were to truly step up and take full responsibility for leading the church. He left 20 month ago. I became head of staff, but chose to not use the title Senior Pastor, as the pastoral responsibilities were being shared by about 10 people whom we call shepherds (the leaders of our house churches), and I am not even the leader of the Shepherd Team. One of our other shepherds is. Also, the teaching/preaching is shared by a number of people. I preach about once a month.

    At first after our pastor left, when people would ask, “Who is your pastor?” our leaders would say, “We don’t have one.” But they soon learned to answer, “We have ten pastors, and you’re looking at one of them.”

    This has been such a healthy transition for our church. I think all of our shepherds agree that we have seen more life transformation, including more baptisms, in the past two years than in any other time in our church’s life. This could not have happened so long as we saw pastoring as something that is done mainly by professionals.

  • Pat68

    “In our day, when a charismatic leader leaves or falls, the church is so often on the verge of disintegration. Why? Because the church was more like a large family of young children whom the father deserted rather than a commune of 40 mature brothers who had leaned on and helped each other in deep ways for years. If pastoring doesn’t multiply all across the fellowship, if love doesn’t grow up, the church is immature and vulnerable and dependent, not on each other, but on the pastor. Welcome to Western Christianity.”

    Yes! I’ve seen that time and time again. You’d think people hadn’t been coming to church every Sunday and leading ministries week in and week out as helpless as some of them when there’s a change in the senior leadership. But what it really reveals is the dependency that was had on the one or two main leaders, to the point of people crippling themselves mentally and emotionally.

  • John W. Frye

    T, thank you for this wonderful post. I agree with your vision of the church as a familial community. In 1 Thess. Paul did not pull rank and order the young church around with his apostolic authority but instead used family relationships as a model for his ministry…a nursing mother…a caring father. I wholeheartedly agree that loving relationships modeled after Jesus Christ’s kind of love should mark all, I mean, all aspects of local church life. Here is my 1% disagreement with you. For the life of me, I don’t know why the assumption or presumption is that if you have a title (and, of course, I prefer “pastor”) and are paid vocationally that you are immediately viewed as a top down authoritarian, superior-over-all-others in the church, the one, hot shot leader with whom the people will ignorantly get codependent. For example, let’s consider one text: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. … Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you
    as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a
    joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (Hebrews 13: 7-8, 13). Were there not leaders in the early church? Word-dispensers and soul watchers? Is it OK to be called a leader in the local church? Why is that OK? Can a person be a leader (pastor, brother, fellow-worker, bishop, apostle, teacher or whatever title, I could care less) who cares for the lives of the people and for which an accountability to God at judgment will be rendered? I do not think the kingdom of God community is a flat, homogeneous democracy. And for life of me I can’t imagine people in my church sinning against God because they call me “pastor,” as if somehow I am replacing Jesus the Good, Great and Chief Pastor. Any leader (pastor) worth his or her salt will ALWAYS be pointing the community to Jesus, the *only Senior Pastor* in the universe. Pastors will always be modeling and calling the people to know of and imitate the Jesus Way, the life of self-giving love. So, T, I agree with you. Pastors, indeed, are called to equip and develop pastor-ing communities.

    Yet, leaders are needed. I am not subscribing to fallen world leadership patterns (as if I’ve never heard of Mark 10:45 in context) nor am I for adopting Western capitalist business practices to “run” a 401c3 non-profit organization. Why are some called out *to be qualified* for the “noble” task of taking care of the “household of God” if EVERYONE is to take care of the household? Why is there greater responsibility on others (like teachers, James 3:1) if the church is one massive homogenous entity? Why are some told not be “greedy” for gain if they are not compensated for their service in the overall family? Double honor and all that? Traditionally, local church leaders have been called pastors. I don’t think that is unbiblical and, in itself, dangerous (as some commentors believe)? I don’t think you do, T.

    There are deplorable pastors out there; bloviating, authoritarian shams (in my opinion) who are a stain on the Bride, the Church. There are paid professional Bible experts who ‘rightly divide the the Word as only they can get it right’ and they call that pastoring. What a crock. There are weaklings hiding in the pulpit, smart alecks using the pulpit for their own aggrandizement. The church is in a sorry mess. Yet, I will not join the popular bandwagon that all woes in the USAmerican church are due to the fact that some are called out and set apart for serving as “biblical” pastors. Pastors whose passion is to be like their Leader, the Good Pastor Jesus.

  • John W. Frye

    Also, T, you might want to look again at the post-denial episode between Jesus and Peter. According to John 21, Peter was commanded 3 times in a strongly *pastoral* metaphor– “Feed my sheep…Feed my lambs…Feed my sheep.” You cannot escape the strong biblical *pastoral* overtones in that recommissioning of Peter. Peter was to be an “undershepherd” of Jesus the Good Shepherd.” There is a distinction between a shepherd and sheep, is there not?

  • Todd

    You stated: “For the life of me, I don’t know why the assumption or presumption is that if you have a title (and, of course, I prefer “pastor”) and are paid vocationally that you are immediately viewed as a top down authoritarian, superior-over-all-others in the church, the one, hot shot leader with whom the people will ignorantly get codependent.”

    Who do you think is making that assumption? Do you view it as being made by “T,” or others in general who have been deeply wounded by authoritarian leaders in the church? In either case, I think the assumption, though often wrong, is very understandable given the co-dependent relationships that have been fostered over time between many church leaders (pastors) and congregations. I think the questions at the end of “T’s” post are very important…and deserve thoughtful reflection…

  • John W. Frye

    Todd, fair enough, but the conversation is often painted with a very broad brush and “hurt” people speak and are heard as if *every pastor* and even pastoring in itself is hurtful. This “transference” has got to stop. That’s all.

  • AHH

    Agreed that this sort of top-down church is all too common. Not just due to authoritarian pastors, but at least as much due to expectations of the congregation.
    I’m sure many here have stories where a parishoner in the hospital felt slighted because 3 lay people visited but not the Pastor. In my own church, when I was an Elder the culture was that you could tell the important church events because they were the ones where Pastors showed up. I’m also thinking of a big Easter service that featured all 5 of our Pastors (and nobody else) sitting in the middle of the stage.

    Too often, the culture develops that the only ministry that really counts is done by the professionals. I think this is more often the product of consumer-minded church members than of authoritarian leaders. A book that talks about this better than I can is Unfinished Business: Returning Ministry to the People of God by Greg Ogden.

    Now, it is wrong to paint all pastors with that brush. The church has a role for shepherds and leaders (to equip the saints for ministry, among other things), and those faithful servants should be respected and honored.
    Both lack of appropriate honor to the pastoral gift and churches with a top-down pastor-centered culture are problems. I think John’s main concern is the first, while T’s main concern (also a burden on my heart) is the second. I suppose which seems like the bigger problem depends on your perspective

  • John,

    Thanks for interacting with me on this.

    I hope the post doesn’t come across as against leadership, or against the idea that some are going to have greater responsibility than others. In defining pastoring as I have, as love “grown up,” I’m meaning to imply in significant part that, as in any family, some will be more grown up (in Christ) than others. This is what I think “elders” are intended to be–brothers and sisters who are more mature in the faith, hope and love of Christ. These folks are to be leading the way in looking out for not just themselves, but others. Because they are more mature, they can and should be trusted with greater responsibility, and their voice will and should carry more weight and wisdom in most cases. Older brothers and sisters can be more authoritative than younger ones without being anyone’s boss. And, I don’t recall if I made it clear in the final draft of this post, but I think anyone who gives their working hours to the Church deserves to be paid. Families aren’t homogenous or static over time in how responsibility is shared. Neither should churches be. But, as RJS has pointed out before, its rare that churches are geared to produce functional colleagues.

    For my part, I don’t assume that any head pastor I meet is an authoritarian. The vast bulk I’ve met and even been friends with are not. What most of them are is overworked and underpaid. Jason Micheli, whom I only know from his posts here, mentioned in the post about his newly discovered illness that he had taken no vacations in ten years. I wish he was an anomaly in this regard, but he’s more the norm in my experience. But I also meet and know lots of rank and file folks, and the bulk of them feel ill qualified or authorized to do much in the way of pastoring, teaching, evangelizing, praying with folks, etc. So, it’s a generalization, but the way I carry it around in my head is that most pastors are over-burdened and most (not all) lay folks doubt their ability and/or qualification and/or call to do much at all.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever been a part of Al Anon or any similar experience that deals with codependency. But when I first started learning what codependency is and how and why we get into it, the application to the relationships b/n congregant and leadership in the Church was shockingly obvious and sad to me.

    As for Peter (from your question below), I view him as both sheep and shepherd, along with many others in the first church, and in the church today. We all need shepherding, and, if we are mature, we all need to be taking care of others and not just ourselves, which is pastoring. I hope that is clearer.

  • Al Cruise

    “There are deplorable pastors out there.” Yes there are and probably will always be. The problem I see is, the pastors/leaders/gatekeepers who are not deplorable and have the passion like the Good Pastor Jesus, often remain remarkable silent while the deplorable ones run amok. It ‘s like some code of silence kicks in and any criticisms are usually worded carefully as not to blame the individual and directed at the congregations to suck it up and be glad you have a Church to go too.

  • Great thoughts. “I’m sure many here have stories where a parishoner in the hospital felt slighted because 3 lay people visited but not the Pastor.” You got a witness here, brother.

  • John,

    I put my answer to your Peter question in the comment above. Now, I’ll make things even more confusing by continuing on your earlier questions here! You mentioned, after your gracious agreement with familial love being the mark of all church life: “For the life of me, I don’t know why the assumption or presumption is that if you have a title (and, of course, I prefer “pastor”) and are paid vocationally that you are immediately viewed as a top down authoritarian, superior-over-all-others in the church, the one, hot shot leader with whom the people will ignorantly get codependent.”

    That’s quite an assumption! I hope you don’t think it’s mine! But I will deal with the superior-hot-shot-leader encouraging codependency and why it arises. I think there are several reasons. A few of them off the top of my head would be our natural tendencies, the way churches are marketed today especially, and even our inherited idea of what makes a group a “church.” I’d add that our culture worships and grinds up celebrities, and our churches can’t help but have that bent.

    I didn’t mention the first four chapters of I Cor., or the times in which the apostles argued about who would be the greatest or had dreams of exercising the kind of authority over others that the Gentiles wielded over them. There are no shortage of passages that show human tendency to grab for the spotlight, or to lift up leaders to idolize in ways that offend the gospel. We’re just wired to build pedestals for ourselves or others. Again, codependency is a two-way street and both sides get something out of it.

    Today, pastors (or at least planters) are encouraged and even trained to leverage their personal charisma to grow churches. Finally, if you look at the historic Protestant “marks” of a church, they all center around the performance of the pastor/priest. So, historically, we’re geared to judge the legitimacy of a church on the performance of the leader(s) of various tasks, especially for today, preaching. There are more besides these, but just these are serious forces pushing us away from an ecclesiology focused on the brethren, and more focused around the star(s). Again, this is not a post about blaming pastors or about blaming anyone. We’ve got some serious problems in our evangelical ecclesiology. I’m hoping to contribute to some ways forward.

  • Todd

    Agreed – thanks for the clarification.

  • Sean Brouillet

    Scot, this is a wonderful post, and there are so many good comments and insights as well. Especially Eddy’s who shows how pastor-ing looks on the ground throughout a congregation. John, I understand your struggle with the broad brushes by which pastors were being painted. Generalizations are hardly ever helpful. I think that many of the comments though were not intended to castigate all singular pastors as authoritarians, but rather to show the biblical/spiritual insufficiency of the singular pastoral system. Forgive me if I didn’t come across that way. In my opinion, the one man leader system inherently creates both problems. Authoritarianism in those for whom that is a tendency (whose nicer side is the over-burdening of the pastor) and immaturity in the saints, otherwise known as co-dependency, lack of responsibility, and ultimately an ignorance of their identity and place in the family of God.

    Scot, your emphasis on the brotherhood of all believers is spot on. And this does not negate the need or call for leaders and leadership in the body of Christ. As leaders we ought to be reconciling Cain’s selfish rhetorical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” with a resounding “yes! we are!”

    I think of Peter’s admonition in his epistle to “the elders”, (of which he was a “fellow elder) to “shepherd (verb) the flock of God exercising oversight…” Peter wasn’t emphasizing a singular position or person, but a call to care for by all of the leaderS in this congregation

  • John W. Frye

    T, you write and I agree with you: “Today, pastors (or at least planters) are encouraged and even trained to leverage their personal charisma to grow churches. Finally, if you look at the historic Protestant “marks” of a church, they all center around the performance of the pastor/priest. So, historically, we’re geared to judge the legitimacy of a church on the performance of the leader(s) of various tasks, especially for today, preaching. There are more besides these, but just these are serious forces pushing us away from an ecclesiology focused on the brethren, and more focused around the star(s). Again, this is not a post about blaming pastors or about blaming anyone. We’ve got some serious problems in our evangelical ecclesiology. I’m hoping to contribute to some ways forward.”

    Forming a church around one man or woman (the spiritual “star”) with the necessary charisma to make local church happen is dangerous (as Pat mentions above).

    I think another assumption you have about my emphasis on the pastor is that the gifted, charismatic, dispenser of Bible truth gets way too busy for his or her own good and the church eventually drifts into codependency. This may and certainly does happen. Here’s what I believe. I believe in multiple elder rule and the ‘set apart’ (aka ordained), compensated elder is designated by the community for certain functions (we don’t need to go through pastoral vocational functions again). The “teaching elder” (pastor) endeavors, here’s where we agree, to equip the other elders to pastor the church *with* him or her so that the church itself becomes a pastor-ing community. While I appreciate your passion for the enduring maturation of the local community, I am not certain that there is a direct link about the need to be a maturing community and how we define local church leaders (as in familial terms). John the Apostle (in 1 John) does call some men “fathers” in the church, contrary to Jesus’ admonition :-), and those ‘fathers’, ‘young men,’ and ‘children’ are interpreted by some to be reflective of differing levels of maturity.

    The concern that some solo pastors get way too busy and try to do it all and on whom the congregation gets codependent is traceable to personal dysfunction, not to the biblical vision of pastor. The pastor who dysfunctions like this to the detriment of teaching, training and unleashing the full giftedness of the local community is a person who has lost or never had a biblically informed view of pastor. He or she needs help to overcome an omnicompetent view of personal capabilities.

  • Okay. This is helpful. Super helpful. I’m seeing much more of the overlap of our respective pages.

    Let me see if I can elaborate a bit in a way that pulls a few strands together around your question about whether “there is a direct link about the need to be a maturing community and how we define local church leaders (as in familial terms).”

    I’m glad we agree about so much, especially the danger of forming a church around the charisma of one person. Maybe I’m in circles (participating in multiple church plants and related church plant trainings/materials) that are unique, but this seems to be central methodology (SBC, Presbyterian, Reformed, Vineyard, Charismatic, EV Free, Calvary Chapel, Independent, etc.) Do you see this methodology as rare? It’s more than the norm from where I sit. It is so central that all other ways are viewed with skepticism. Maybe this difference of experience is at the core of our different perspectives; I don’t know.

    I totally agree about a plurality of elders. And, honestly, while I tend to think its more helpful to think even of elders as older brothers than fathers, I know there are and we want there to be fathers, mothers, children, etc. in the church. I care much more about function than label. So on that point, when it comes to elders, I don’t see any reason that only one of them would be “the” teaching elder, or be paid, or be ordained, etc. But that is the assumption of our age, and even in your comment. Why? In general, I think this singling out of one teaching elder is indicative of and cooperative with the problems I’m highlighting. The scriptures say that anyone to be appointed as an elder should be able to teach, so why have anyone as elder who can’t? And if they can, why don’t they? Again, I’m not saying that the whole elder board needs to be on the payroll. Some will be willing and able to give more time to pastoring (including teaching) in various ways. But why make just one of them the defacto face of the church by having just one dominate the teaching, again, if all the elders (and presumably some others that aren’t elders but are gifted to teach and show promise) can teach, why cooperate with these tendencies? Elders need to be pushed too. Just like the disciples were pushed way outside of their felt competencies and comfort zones in preaching and healing, our elders, who presumably can already teach (!) need to do it more for their own good as well as the body’s. But delegating to one is easier. It’s tradition. So we do it. It has a higher cost than we know. But you’re right, it’s not the biblical informed view of “pastor” because that would imply multiple teachers and elders all sharing the load.

    One of the things I love about the Bible, as opposed to, for example, the Koran, is that the Bible is literally a harmony not only of multiple people, but multiple people in multiple styles over multiple generations. Even the gospels are in multiple, each bringing a different and helpful perspective to the same saving story. Why do we just have one teaching pastor, except for the multitude of reasons I’ve mentioned? This does not help us create colleagues. It does not help us present Jesus better. It does not help people grow up. When I got into my major in college, I started having classes in which I had to teach the material. We need more of that progression in church.

    I love your heart and your protectiveness of pastors. I’ve stood in passionate defense of more than one in many elder board meetings. I’m not against pastors!! At all!! Quite the contrary! But this system we keep strapping them and the rest of us into is like a cruelly broken yoke meant for five, that can only fit one now. And we keep hooking folks into it.

  • John, another angle on this for me comes from the command of Paul to “pass these truths onto faithful men who in turn can pass them on to others.” If we can’t even do this with confidence inside of our own elder boards, what are we doing? If we can’t multiply teachers inside the body how can we hope to do it outside?

  • John W. Frye

    Not once, T, have I sensed you are against pastors though you resist some current definitions and expressions of the work of a pastor. Your spirit is why I enjoy this conversation and desire to both hear you and learn from you. I understand that you see one ( or two) paid professional(s) doing alone what *all* should be doing as a familial community is an alien template laid over local church life. Of course there are many who think like you about the life of the church. You affirm the need for recognized and responsible leaders overseeing the, uh hmm, flock of God. For reasons I wrote about several posts back, I see nothing wrong biblically or functionally in having a leader (male or female) who is set apart as and vocationally called to be a pastor. Closing story. A pastor recently reported to me his attempt to wean his church from his solo leadership to multiple team leadership. Without all the details, his church floundered. No, I am not assuming he had a codependent church. Perhaps in the wideness of kingdom of God realities, leadership patterns, structures, pastoring expressions are highly contextual. God bless, brother!

  • God bless, John. I do pray and hope for all pastors and churches to thrive.

    This is the way I hope these kinds of discussions progress. Thanks again, brother, for your patience in talking about all this.

  • I totally agree, and for me the biggest problem with ‘leadership development’ is that it tries to make everybody the same sort of leader. That and it makes ‘leading’ far more important that ‘pastoring’.

  • kzarley

    Very well said Scot.