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Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Food for Thought - On Pastors and Pastoring

Dan Kimble wrote the following in an article on The Next Wave entitled,Pews, Pulpits, Pastors, Preaching and other things that can get in the way...:

Pastors - I am a "pastor", so I am not suggesting we don't use that word - but the biblical defintion was a gift of "shepherding" - not a title tagged limited mainly to a paid person who went to seminary. In the early church it was all small house churches and there were the "shepherds" (pastors) who were leading and caring for the people. So there is leadership needed, but not as a formal title given only to paid professionals, which was a spiritual gift. When someone in any church over 75 or so people call the person who gets up front "pastor", it becomes different than the "shepherds" who knew all their "sheep" by name etc., which was possible to do in smaller house church settings. But as we use the now use the title "pastor" for the person who gets up and teaches - it is not the way it was in the New Testament. Again, I am a "pastor", but I am wondering if how we title ourselves like this can be detrimental to people not understanding there are also many of them who are "pastors" , who have that gift. We seem to only use it for the paid professionals (we only do that in our church currently, because of the current cultural defining of the word). But as we look at the separation of "clergy" and the people, we can force more and more barriers between them. Even robes and how pastors may dress differently sets up a culture of having people feel more and more less likely to understand biblically they can be "pastoring" people themselves. Reading the history of why clergy wears robes or suits is fascinating and it all stemmed from cultural issues we aren't facing today. But many never have changed the dress that was once developed for reasons of specific time period and made sense then, but today may even be counter-productive to the reason they were word originally. I am not against robes or suits, depending on the context and tradition. But I wonder when what we wear causes people to think less of themselves and what they could grow into and their roles in a church.
Dan's point on the adornments of the office - the dress of the clergy - reminded me of something Patrick Johnston wrote about in his book The Church is Bigger Than you Think:
I well remember preaching in a parish church in Colombo some years ago. It was a hot and humid tropical climate and the parish priest was putting on all his robes that were designed to keep the clergy warm in unheated, medieval church buildings in north western Europe. He swung round to me and blurted out, "It's all your fault I have to wear this!" Isn't this a parable of what has happened so often through the history of the Church? It has held on to the forms and let go of the principles (p. 156).
I don't want anyone to get me wrong - It's not like I hate pastors or anything. Some of my dearests friends and most influential people in my life are pastors. In fact I am employed in a pastoral role myself and about to embark on a process of denominational "pastoral" endorsement. I just think, generally, we need to look again at the hows and whys of pastoring and get back to the model the Bible gives us for leadership. The church has to benefit from this paradigmatic shift!

If you haven't already, check out the review (Emerging Jargon - APEPT) of Part 4 of The Shaping of Things to Come. I think it presents a more biblical model for local church leadership.

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