Monday, June 20

Pastoring is a gift, not a title

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.


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 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...


For the entire article click here.


martinezfamily said...

Fantastic article. I do think that Mega-church pastors probably do "pastor" but it is to their staff more so than the congregation.

Bob Cleveland said...

Pastoring a "gift"? I guess SO! That's what God called it, anyway.

GuyMuse said...

Rick and Bob,

Pastoring is indeed a gift and very much needed in the church today. I think Kathy's point is that pastoring people is a gift, a function, and not the title it has become today.

Aussie John said...


Absolutely spot on!

sattler said...

I'm glad to see Kathy's excellent post here. I think there's probably two main things that can be said around 'pastoring'. The first is Kathy's point - that leaders with pastoral responsibilities need gifts and not status. The second is more controversial. Should we even have pastors at all, in the sense of making such people 'clergy'? I'm in danger of being typecast as 'anticlerical' but I keep on chipping away at this:

Tim Patterson said...


Good insights about the pastoral gift/role. Any leadership role in the church should be considered a gift and not a position. If we take Eph. 4 list as leadership roles given by God for equipping the church for service... pastor/teacher role is there... they are considered leaders in the church. They are the shepherds of God's flock.

I think that the word "pastor" is a misnomer for many pastors in our U.S. churches, especially the larger churches. I see many that are fulfilling the leadership role of prophet or evangelist more than pastor. Some could even be apostles... just not in the traditional missionary role.

GuyMuse said...


Interesting perspective what you wrote on your blog. I personally believe in the function and need for those with the pastoral gifting, but see little today that evidences much more than a titled office with the responsibilities that come with that office.

GuyMuse said...


I tend to agree with you. What we have done is combine all the Eph. 4giftings and functions into a single office which we call PASTOR. What was meant to be a shared responsibility is now a wrapped up into an office we know as Pastor. I like what Kathy writes because it is getting us back to the origins of what the gift/function was intended in the Body of Christ.

William said...

Excellent post. I have been under "pastors" who gave no time for other then preaching, or had anger issues and blasted some of the people in the church. And I have also seen people who would do anything for anyone else who was not recognized by anyone in leadership. I never thought about what you laid out in this post. Thanks for the insight.

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for stopping by and for the comment. As others have mentioned, there is a big difference in what is expected of contemporary pastors and what Eph. 4 speaks of in regards to what APEPT are expected to do in regards to the saints.