One of the people I follow on Twitter is Kathy Escobar. The following blog excerpt comes from a post entitled rethinking the word 'pastor'. I like what she has to say.
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 and 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...
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