Tuesday, January 19

Pastoring is a gift, not a title

My good Kiwi friend, and former team-mate, Colorado Negrito, pointed me to Kathy Escobar's blog post rethinking the word 'pastor'. I like what she has to say. What do you think?


i believe pastoring is a gift, not a title. many have come to believe that being a pastor means someone who 1) has gone to seminary; 2) “runs” churches; 3) preaches sermons; 4) marries and buries people. i really don’t think this was the biblical idea of the word poimen, which is synonymous with shepherding...

pastors are the people who are caring for, shepherding, loving, and journeying in close-relationship with people wherever they are, whether that be as part of church, at work, in their neighborhoods, etc. their focus is on relationship, relationship, relationship. years ago a young woman told me that the weekend communicator at the mega-church she was going to was a “really amazing pastor.” it was hard because i wanted to say back to her, “honey, he is not a pastor. yep, he’s an amazing speaker and teacher and extremely gifted CEO,but he will never, ever know your name, let alone your story… he will never counsel you or have you over for dinner, hold your babies or be with you when you or one of your family is sick in the hospital or going through a rough patch. he will never do anything that someone with a true pastor’s gift will naturally do.” yet, he will get all of the kudos and benefits of being a “pastor” without ever actually shepherding or being in pastoring relationships with people. i can’t tell you how many times i have heard from a variety of different churches that their senior pastor “isn’t really a people person.”

to me, pastoring doesn’t require an education. sure, we can all learn new skills and strengthen our gifts, but i know many-a-pastor-in-the-truest-sense-of-the-word who has never taken a class at Bible college or seminary. again, we are mistaking a gift for a role or a job, a leader for a pastor. often people will ask me if they should get seminary training to learn how to become more pastoral. my response “um…well….in my opinion, the best education you can get is to start working the 12 steps for yourself and steep yourself in learning about codependence, boundaries, and spiritual and emotional healing individually and in groups. and yeah, that’s free!”

we need to quit calling people who don’t like to be with people pastors because it is diminishing & unempowering the ones who do. it’s so funny to me how there are women in all kinds of churches who shepherd, love, and care for people and can’t ever be called “pastor” and yet i have seen men-who-can’t-stand-people-and-only-are-in-charge-of-networking-the-computers be called an “operations pastor.” it’s comical on one level, but on a whole other one, it’s not funny at all. my vote is to call preachers who never interact with a person in their congregation beyond the big-donors-they-golf-with “weekend communicators” or “executive directors” and reserve the word pastors for people who are providing spiritual and emotional care to people.

most people’s true “pastors” aren’t the pastor of their church, they are close friends or people in community who care for them and love them. the person who you are going to call when you are hurting, who will be with you in the hospital when you are sick, who loves your babies and cares about their well-being beyond just words, who will provide prayer and spiritual and emotional support when you need it, that’s your pastor. i have a lot of amazing pastors in my life–some with pastor titles, some without–but they are all lovely naturally gifted people that do all of these things for me in different ways. i have one challenge for us this week–tell those people, whoever they are, that you consider them one of your pastors and are thankful for their love & care. it will encourage them–and maybe surprise them more than you might expect. i think that is a step in the right direction to re-claim the word far beyond official church leaders.

i do believe there are all kinds of amazing pastors truly pastoring their churches. their gifts line up with their role and they love their people in amazing ways. i am privileged to know some of these pastors and see their heart for shepherding their communities. it doesn’t bother me a bit that they are called pastors; i honor their heart and commitment to live out what they are built to do. journeying with people is hard work, and i deeply respect those shepherds out there who are really shepherding.

like the word “church”, i don’t know if we will never be able to fully redeem the word “pastor.” i think it might be too far gone. there’s too much baggage with it. the seminary system that cultivates people who have to get “paid pastor” jobs to pay their bills after all that debt perpetuates it. people confusing leadership & pastoring perpetuate it. people who don’t have anyone to fan their natural gifts into flame and validate them will stay underground thinking they might not have what it takes to contribute as much as they could. and so we’ll keep re-creating little systems where there is a separation between the “professionals” and the “not-so-professionals”, the “strong leaders” from the “real shepherds” and those who aren’t the pros or loud or leader-y enough will continue to feel inadequate or unprepared or un-infused with support to use their gifts. i recently told someone that the refuge is “full of pastors.” it is. there are so many mercy-people, shepherds, true lovers of people. they have no education or training or any of the put-together requirements we have placed upon the role. but they naturally pastor people, advocating, caring, and loving for others.

i am not calling for the abolishment of pastors. i believe it is a beautiful and lovely gift; one of the many beautiful and lovely gifts that it takes to make a body whole. i’m just calling for a re-thinking of the word so that its true meaning & purpose shines through instead of associating it with a whole bunch of things that have absolutely nothing to do with the heart and spirit of pastoring...


Read the entire article here.


Dion said...

Hola Guido,
This couldn't be said very much better. Your friend just put into very articulate words my thoughts from the past several years about what the word "pastor" means. I think that especially in Latino professional circles where everyone is always flaunting titles in front of and behind their name, I have to the point of nauseating from seeing Pr. Jose, Pr. Roberto and Pra. Maria signing most of the E-mails that I get from the Hispanic Christian circles here in Columbus. They obviously don't get it, it can't be said any louder "Pastor" is a GIFT, NOT AN OFFICE!
On a personal note, I've also realized in the past year that God has given me the gift of "pastor" a few years ago, I stove for the title of in the church we were a part of, but didn't have the gift at that time. Now, I'm realizing I've been given more of the gift even though I am a long ways away from ever wanting to use the title.

GuyMuse said...


Good to hear from you again. It has been awhile! I too, thought the writer of this article was dead on in describing the gift of pastoring. As you so aptly put it, here in L. America titles are very important, whether one has the gift or not! I wish there was more emphasis, teaching, recognition of the gift, rather than courses of study to obtain the desired title.

Darrell said...

I could not agree more Kathy Escobar. I have had this conversation with many people and some reply that it is just a semantic issue. I disagree with that. Words mean things and when we use words like pastor we ought to use them the way the scripture does. However the consequences of the prevailing practice and understanding of pastors are profound and I believe are very harmful to the Kingdom of God. The most damaging is that the Kingdom is severely suffering from the lack of REAL pastors being FULLY empowered and functioning. In the work of making disciples the gift of the pastor is HUGE. Everyone needs someone with this gift in their life. Because we reserve the function and understanding of pastors as someone who "1) has gone to seminary; 2) “runs” churches; 3) preaches sermons; 4) marries and buries people." the people with the true God given gift of pastoring often are not in full operation and as a result the Body of Christ suffers. Paul wrote that they had 10,000 instructors but few fathers in Christ. The problem is the same today. Everyone hold's someone who instructs from the pulpit is such high regard, but the real need is for spiritual mothers and fathers to share their lives with others. There are no shortcuts in making mature disciple-making disciples.

GuyMuse said...


Couldn´t have said it better myself. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. The shepherding gift is desperately needed, but often it is hard to identify those who are truly gifted, from those who just have the title.