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The Impossibility of Being a Pastor

I remember that moment. It seemed spiritually powerful. At least, for the moment. But I’m sure that for most, the needle didn’t move too much that morning. Perhaps a momentary twitch, a handful of hallway conversations, and then back to business as usual. But the needle did move for a few. I still hear from a couple of those former students from time to time. One co-vocationally leads a church that is multiplying in the Northeast. And I promise you, his new disciples do not cost a million dollars.

Which leads us to the second temptation of the Western Church.

Professionalism: The Temptation of Excellence

One of the significant reforms to the sixteenth century Church was to remove the requirement of a “mediator” between a believer and their God. This was bold, brilliant, and entirely biblical and yet, somehow, incomplete. It spoke of personal spiritual access, but not spiritual status. It spoke of divine admission, but not of our sacred commission. It removed the mystical broker for our souls but cemented a certified contractor for our work. And so, we “priests,” now with full access to the heavenlies, are reduced to offering prayers for ministries of the legitimately “called.”

And now we in the West declare, “We have a gifted pastoral team.” We celebrate them. Sort of. But mostly we compare them. And since many of us are now online, the task of comparison is made much more convenient. And we all feel it. We’re squeezed for more, for better, and for slicker. And for many of us, there’s not much left to squeeze.

And so, we’re back to asking, “Is this really God’s assignment for my life?”

What is God’s Kingdom corrective to this relentless treadmill? It is to understand that the gospel is every disciple’s calling—not just a chosen few. Because of this, we seek to multiply Jesus’ disciples by developing and deploying the body of Christ into a diverse and infinitely reproducible co-vocational mission-force. 

Therefore, our vocational leaders see their primary assignment as equippers and multipliers of Jesus’ disciple-making insurgency. (Luke 19:11-27, Acts 18:1-3, 1 Corinthians 4:12, 1 Corinthians 9:18, Ephesians 4:11-13, Colossians 3:23-24, 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12)

The “priesthood of every believer” includes far more than universal spiritual access. It includes a universal calling to the Gospel ministry. And when our sixteenth century vision of a priesthood is replaced with a first through third century vision of an equipped insurgency, we “pro” just might find our old mojo.

Note: For each of the Seven Temptations in this series of articles, I am including a few illustrating paragraphs of narrative from my novel, Once You See: Seven Temptations of the Western Church.”

Obedient ‘Equipping’ Illustrated in ‘Once You See’

The small band of disciples meeting in the Lewis’ townhome laughed with a free and unbridled spirit. There was a freshness and sense of excitement about their new community and its mission. They were genuinely happy to be banded together.

Choyz Jackson chimed in. “So, Jerome and I would be the shepherds. We would gather the sheep and make sure none of them get lost.”

“Close,” said Luca. “You won’t be the shepherds. You will equip the body to shepherd itself. Make sense? You will organize us and train ‘shepherdy people’ to ensure that needs are being met and nobody falls through the cracks, but there’s a whole lot more to it.”

“More?” Choyz asked.

“Yes, I think that it’s important to keep your goal front and center,” Luca continued. “Do you know what the goal of a shepherd is?”

“To feed and protect and care for the sheep?” Jerome replied tentatively, sensing that this was too obvious of an answer.

“Nope. That’s a shepherd’s means to the goal, but it’s never the goal. No shepherd thinks it’s his goal to coddle fat ole stanky sheep. The shepherd’s goal is to multiply his flock. That’s how he makes a living; nurturing an ‘un-reproducing’ flock is the shepherd’s quickest path to the poor house. Everything that a wise shepherd does is designed to reproduce more cute, fluffy little lambs.”