What Being a Pastor Means to Me.

Taken while I was hiking on Easter Sunday in 2013

Taken while I was hiking on Easter Sunday in 2013

It can feel a little silly of me to write an opinion of what it means to be a pastor considering a couple of factors:

  1. My age (especially in a denomination consisting mostly of people far older than me) 
  2. My experience (especially in a denomination that prizes the “senior” or “lead” pastor role)

So, I want to start by clarifying that I am writing about what being a pastor means to me, not what’s been handed or taught to me.

These are observations, lessons, thoughts, and opinions I’ve formed intimately after years of being a licensed pastor, serving in numerous different roles, and a lifetime of growing up among literally hundreds of pastors. I’ve experienced some of the greatest heights and most tragic lows of spiritual leadership due to mere proximity (and I know many of my fellow PK sisters and brothers can say the same). You know those “lows” your mind goes to when I make that reference? Yes, I mean those. What is also tragic is how difficult it is for us to recall the heights as quickly as the lows, because they are there and a dominant part of the reality.

My Role as a Pastor

There is an impulse I feel to now write a whole bunch of things, but it really is simple. If I were to try putting it into one sentence, it wouldn’t be that hard:

My role as a pastor is to seek, discover, uncover, and participate with the abiding love and presence of God in all and through all while also being available to others to help them do the same in their own life, context, and heart.

Frankly, the first part of that statement is just the definition of what being a Christian looks like, but the post-“while” half defines what a pastor is.

I feel the need to note that this, by and large, excludes being an “expert" or advice-giver of any sort. I am not a money expert, marriage expert, parenting expert, political expert, health expert, psychology expert, science expert, sexuality expert, occupational expert, international relations expert, or even in some cases, a morality expert. If I should be an “expert” in anything, it would be discovering, uncovering, and participating with the abiding love and presence of God in all and through all. That’s it. Knowledge of Scripture is important, but for this purpose, not the purpose of simple knowledge or opinion (that’s being an expert in Scripture, which is not the equivalent of being a pastor).

Taken while on a personal retreat at Sky Farm Hermitage in Sonoma, CA.

Taken while on a personal retreat at Sky Farm Hermitage in Sonoma, CA.

Could you imagine sitting down with your tax person and them telling you how you should parent or what you should believe about God? You would immediately walk out or at least tell them to stay on the topic of your taxes. As a pastor, it's my responsibility to stay on task as well.

Culturally, for one reason or another, it seems the role of “pastor” has turned into the responsibility of having to be an expert on just about everything. The “transcendent-expert-style-pastor” runs the danger of diluting the Gospel and completely burning out from idolizing their self. We attempt to fill churches on Sundays by attracting people to an expert rather than maintaining a focus of attention and practice on seeking the Abiding Expert.

Advice is not what I want to draw attention to as a pastor. Christ is. I am not about pointing to a way of doing things when our faith is that Christ is the way. And any advice that I might give should be only for the explicit purpose of assisting someone in their discovering, uncovering, and participating with what God is already doing in their lives. I am not what creates, conjures, or imparts that. I am available to partner in it though, and that is my role as a pastor.

Now, I know that there are pastors who really are experts in finances, marriage, parenting, etc. But that is not the conclusion I should draw when I hear the title “pastor.” This title is not one of authority, like being an “expert” might be, but it is one of service. What does that “service” look like? God is already active and moving in every dimension of life. As a pastor I am giving my life up to discover, uncover, and participate in that infinite mystery and am available to partner with others to do the same. It’s that simple. Anything else should be labeled something else.

He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.
– Ephesians 4.11-13