Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Role of Pastor

A version of this hit news stands yesterday. In 600 words or less - enjoy.

The occupation of Pastor runs deep in my family. My grandpa was a pastor, my dad is a pastor and church planter, my youngest brother is a pastor, and I, while growing up, firmly decided that I would not be a pastor. Ironically enough, I am now nearly a decade into the life and work of a pastor and thankful that my family heritage didn’t include heavy lifting or things that smell bad.

Upon learning that I am a pastor, people often ask, “What is it that you actually do?” or state “It must be nice to only work on Sunday.” To be honest, working only one day a week would be great for my rock-climbing schedule but horrible for the life of the Church. The reality is that being a pastor is not a clock-in/clock-out job; it is a lifestyle job that requires much from the pastor on an ongoing and continual basis.

So what does a pastor actually do besides drink coffee and play the churches’ Xbox?
I believe that there are four basic roles that a pastor fills in doing their job well; they lead, teach, care for, and protect their church.

First, pastors lead through organizing, gathering people, and setting the church in order. In addition to serving, this part of the pastors’ role requires that they multiply their leadership, study extensively about good leadership, and continually evaluate their leadership. As their church grows, they will need to build systems, becoming more precise in and reproducing their leadership so that it is both accountable and decentralized.

Second, the pastors’ role in teaching includes one-on-one conversations, teaching in small groups, and preaching to large groups, such as on a Sunday morning. This responsibility to teach requires a couple of things: one, that pastors spend long hours in Biblical study; and two, that they learn to clearly articulate that which they’ve studied. This means they should be students of both culture and communication, studying the great communicators of our time including politicians, comedians, writers, and even talk radio hosts. Sadly, many great teachings go unnoticed or unheeded not because of a lack of good content, but because of poor communication.

Third, a pastor functions as a caregiver. A good pastor is known for actually caring for the good and well-being of people. They respond to peoples’ needs through prayer, support, care, and counselling often networking with other local caregivers such as Cares Counselling here in Abbotsford. As pastors and churches, our intent should be to come alongside hurting people and journey with them through the mess of life, providing both hope and restoration.

Fourth, as protector of the church, a pastor defends orthodox doctrine and refutes heresy, false gospels, and deceivers. However, shielding the church also assumes advocacy for those unable to advocate for themselves such as in the cases of spousal or child abuse. This is why churches put in place safety and security procedures for their children and youth ministries and why churches need to take great care when publishing personal information of its members. Pastors, like our great Advocate, Jesus, must defend and protect the church from those who intend to deceive or harm it.
Though a pastor should be quite competent in each of these four areas, there will inevitably be seasons and circumstances where a pastor and church need to give more focus and attention to a particular area. For example, an untimely death in the church requires an intense season of care. While leading, teaching and protecting do still continue, the primary focus becomes one of compassion for the health, well-being, and good of the hurting.

Finally, if you know a pastor – whether you attend church or not – ask them what they do with their week. You might be surprised that spring golfing doesn’t make the list.