Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What is the primary purpose of pastors?

That is a question culturally we think we know the answer to, or at least have a set pool of answers to pick from depending on your church traditions. Maybe you think the primary purpose of pastors is preaching. Or perhaps it is administering the sacraments. Or counseling or weddings/funerals or any of the other myriad functions that we assume pastors should do based exclusively on our cultural traditions.

Dave Black has a very different answer (May 25th, 9:18 AM):

A mutual ministry is possible only when pastors realize that their main responsibility is to guide members toward pastoral care of each other.

Winner winner, chicken dinner!

Pastors have as their primary purpose equipping the entire Body to pastor one another. There is no other way to read Ephesians 4: 11-16 than to see it as pastors equipping everyone in the Body to do what pastors do.

So why don’t we do that? A lot of it has to do with losing control and not trusting God to work in the “laity”. In our performance oriented church, the idea that someone will “do it wrong” or “say the wrong thing” has paralyzed the church. So we assign all of the ministry to one guy and expect him to do it for us. Not just that but we expect him to do it perfectly every time and in a way that keeps us entertained and engaged (and let’s be honest, those who love expository sermons are just as entertained by them as people who love praise music). We need to make it a top priority of the church to get away from a performance mentality that freezes the Body of Christ into inaction and get to a real, functioning priesthood of every believer. To do that, pastors need to equip people to do the work of ministry, bless and encourage them to do that work and then get out of the way and let them make mistakes. Otherwise we will be perpetually trapped in our system with one guy running on a hamster wheel while the rest of us watch.

By the way, I am rereading Dr. Black’s excellent book, The Jesus Paradigm. If you haven’t read it, you should get yourself a copy and give it a read. One of the wonders of the internet age is that we can hear from and learn from those who have gone before so we are not always forced to recreate the wheel again and again. Dr. Black is always a source of encouragement to me and often a rebuke against my own pride and laziness. I love sitting at the virtual feet of men like him and others, men I would not have the opportunity to learn from a few decades ago.

(For my review of The Jesus Paradigm, click here)

1 comment:

Don Litchfield said...

I like that definition of pastoral work.
It will take vulnerability and transparency to make it happen, on everyone's part: pastor and people. Peter would state that only through the cleansing, purifying work of obedience to the Spirit of God can a church enter into the realm of true love and esteem for one another (1 Peter 1:22). So the pastor's responsibility is both to enable and exhort the body unto inner purity as well as example the life of loving, humble service to those he is called to minister unto (John 13 - washing feet).