Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Grappling with Pastoral Identity...

This is a concept that's been increasingly on my mind of late - both in ministry practice and theory. Many churches expect their pastor to be a chaplain - tending to the needs of the sick, the shut-in, and the elderly. This is a pastoral care model of church where the pastor exists to take care of the people, pastorally. Sure the people also want a good sermon on Sunday...but it seems the primary role of the pastor is care-giver.

The other end of the spectrum is the spiritual leader. Here the role of the pastor is a spiritual teacher sharing spiritual wisdom around every corner. The primary emphasis is preaching and teaching , with a touch of administrative leadership (to delegate all other duties except that which relates to preaching and teaching.)

Surely both of the stereo-types above are just that - caricatures for the sake of discussion. However if we take the idea of spiritual gifts seriously, both types of pastors (and everyone in between) are hopefully employing the gifts which the Spirit has given them. As Paul says, surely there are those gifted to preach and those gifted to share mercy - and both are necessary.

Yet in different church cultures and structures, we lean more heavily to one side or the other. Smaller churches tend to want a chaplain-pastor. Larger churches want a teacher-pastor. There is a current trend in my own denomination to make sure our pastors are leaders - which is spiritual gift.

Yet I have never heard of any denomination that uses spiritual gifts assessments to help in the discernment process of those who are considering pastoral ministry. It seems to me that this would be one of the first things that we should do. Surely there is no concrete and 100% accurate type of assessment, however, it would seem that spiritual gifts would be a natural place to start with a journey towards pastoral ministry.

I am not sure that there is one specific profile of the perfect pastor - for pastoral leadership in a congregation depends on many variables - community context, congregational needs (for leadership and otherwise), God's desires for that congregation, etc. So I guess this post is merely my "thinking out loud" about such things as I grapple with my own leadership style and pastoral identity.

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