Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What if Pastoring Looked Like This? | Anxious to Impart

Our brother Patrick Mitchell at Anxious to Impart wrote a probing post today called What if Pastoring Looked Like This?  It is part of his Wednesday "what if?" series that he just began doing a month ago.  He asks some great questions and I encourage you to check them out.

This particular post he quotes a book by Eugene Peterson.  You know, the pastor guy who wrote the Message translation of the Bible.  Well the author describes the kind of pastor he wants to be as he reasons to the elders of the church why he wanted to resign after three years in the ministry.  Here is some of what he quotes from the book:

 "“I want to be a pastor who prays. I want to be reflective and responsive and relaxed in the presence of God so that I can be reflective and responsive and relaxed in your [the elders and congregation’s] presence…I can’t do that on the run…I feel too crowded.”

“I want to be a pastor who reads and studies. This culture in which we live squeezes all the God sense out of us. I want to be observant and informed enough to help this congregation understand what we are up against, the temptations of the devil to get us thinking we can all be our own gods…It demands some detachment and perspective.”

“I want to be a pastor who has the time to be with you in leisurely, unhurried conversations so that I can understand and be a companion with you as you grow in Christ—your doubts and your difficulties, your desires and your delights. I can’t do that when I am running scared.”"

Knowing that Patrick is a pastor of a local church himself and after having known several pastors and church planters personally I'd say this is nearly a universal list of desires among them.  What if pastoring looked like this?  Or a better question is how can we get to where pastoring looks like this?

The answer to the first is simple.  Pastoring would not be such a burden on the men who have been given the gift and desire to be overseers and shepherds.  They would be able to guide the flock through relationships as God intended.  Only then would they be examples to others and lead in a way that others can imitate.

The answer to the second is a bit tougher because it requires a lot of sacrifice.  The only way to get to a place where pastors are free to have time to focus on relationships is to get rid of all of the other things that take away their time.  Things like planning the next worship service and filling in the numerous slots in the liturgy, writing a 30 to 60 minute sermon, the responsibility to visit every hospitalized and sick person in the congregation, the role as the sole facilitator for funerals and weddings, and the numerous meetings for this committee or that committee.  All of these things must go.  In other words we have to sacrifice the pastor as we know him and replace him with the pastor we see in the New Testament.  As a body there must be a confession that we have hijacked the pastors function in the Body and made him to fit a mold that God never intended him to fill.  That confession must be followed with the total abandonment of those old ways and a resolve to do everything necessary to free our shepherds from this bondage.  Call it congregational confession and repentance.  Only then will these men be free to lead lives as godly examples for the rest of us.

Not only would the pastor then be freed form all the added responsibilities but the rest of the body would be free to build one another up when they gather together.  The weight of filling the time would no longer fall on the pastors shoulders but everyone would be expected to minister to and edify one another.  The needs of the body would be met by the rest of the body, not just one member of it.  This kind of transformation would not only change the pastors lives but it would change the face of church as we know it.  Without a complete overhaul of the church system, our pastors will always desire something more and feel trapped in an office that only a multi-member functioning body of Christ can fill.

At least that is my opinion on this week's "what if?".  What do you think?

'via Blog this'


  1. The key is that the rest of the men in the Body need to equipped, allowed and encouraged to step up. One or a few men can never serve the way that God intended and the Bible models. I heard a famous preacher talking to other preachers the other day and his point was basically that he didn't have time to hang out with people so he should focus on the sermon so he can have the greatest impact. It was tragic.

  2. Bobby your suggestions are good ones. In the book Peterson talks about how he recruited 10 secretaries (who were ladies either widowed or without jobs) to volunteer time doing things that had to be done each week. He had two for each day so they could keep each other company. Then, the elders began functioning as elders rather than a board. I think it sounds as much like biblical eldership as I've seen or heard.

    It will take conversations such as this one, and many more, to catalyze any change in the vocational expectations of the pastor.

  3. Arthur,

    I agree. In many ways I think that most church goers are over-equipped in the realm of knowing what to do. The problem, like you said, lies in the lack of encouragement and allowance of the leaders for them to minister to the gathered church. Along with that there is a severe lack of godly examples being shown in relationship outside of the four walls of the church.

  4. Patrick,

    Some think that conversations like these are detrimental to the health of the church, I'm glad you're not one of them. What you've described sounds like Peterson came up with a nice way to tweak the way things were done before. I bet it freed up quite a bit of his time to do the things he wanted to do.

    I'd like to hear more about the biblical way the elders functioned after that. Perhaps you could elaborate more on that aspect?

  5. Bobby, ditto what Arther said. I have found that a lot of pastors seem to want these things, but for some reason are unwilling to let go of their, power, and control. It is the second part that is the problem.


As in a biblical church gathering, my word is not complete or final. Participation is allowed, encouraged and expected. Please, don't leave without adding something.