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Pastor, Present, Future

This is the second of a two-part series, reflecting on the news of a handful of well-known pastors leaving their churches.

As a pastor of a local church community, I have often been asked, “So, what, exactly, do you do during the week?” This lack of clarity about the pastorate as a vocation extends not only to curious congregants, but ministers seeking to be faithful to God’s call as well.

As Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove writes,

Our vocation is facing something of a crisis. Many pastors aren’t sure how to describe their calling or explain why it matters to the rest of the world.

My wife and I have served together in vocational ministry as pastors for the last eleven years, but neither of us would claim to have even begun figuring this thing out. Far from being a systematic treatment, here are a couple of my thoughts on pastoral ministry:

We’re in This Together

Let me be clear from the outset: I am a huge believer in the priesthood of all believers.

That is, all followers of Christ are called to the ministry, no matter what our particular daily vocation. Leaving ministry up to the “professionals” onstage, or the devout few, leaves us disconnected from God, others, and ourselves. Viewing church as a destination to consume religious goods and services is profoundly unsatisfying.

More Than A Job, But Not Less Than One Either

All of this being said, though, I do believe that being a pastor is a “real” job.

No one should hope to get rich from being a pastor, but — particularly in light of the amount of education, training, and hard work required — it is right to support pastors vocationally. The fact that it’s hard to pin down a bullet-pointed job description hardly renders invalid pastoral ministry as a vocation.

The Nature of Pastoral Ministry

Pastors are poets, prophets, preachers, and priests.

Ministry is empathy, artistry, and humility.

Christ calls us to courage, cause, and creativity.

Preaching is more than motivational speech-making. Pastoral counseling is more than life-coaching. Biblical justice is more than social activism.

A pastor is a shepherd and a friend, following closely after Christ, ever-mindful to encourage our community to grow in love for God and others.

A Better Dream, A Bigger Story

Eugene Cho shares some great insights about living and telling better stories. My wife and I, as we serve our church, seek to awaken the God-given dreams of each member of our community.

Not that there’s anything wrong with plugging people into the logistical needs of a church (e.g., welcoming team, newsletter committee, etc.), but our focus is on encouraging our friends to join the redemptive work of God wherever they see Christ at work.

Understanding the Call

For those who are currently in, or considering, vocational ministry, I highly recommend watching this convocation address delivered by Kenda Dean, Professor of Youth, Church, and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Kenda is a brilliant theologian and ministry practitioner. While she writes primarily about youth ministry, her insights resonate with all ministers. In her convocation address, she reminds us that we’re not in church work to save churches but, rather, to save lives, to lead the hungry to the Bread of Life, and to connect meaningfully with those around us.

Being deeply influenced by A Long Obedience in the Same Direction and Living the ResurrectionI look forward to reading The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson.

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Daniel has been an editor with ChurchLeaders for several years. Daniel and his wife, along with an incredible team, helped plant Anchor City Church in San Diego—a third culture, multi-generational church who seeks to join the redemptive mission of God for our city and for the world. Daniel also serves on the advisory board of Justice Ventures International, a non-profit organization working to fight human trafficking and modern-day slavery around the world.