The following short article appears in this Friday's Abbotsford-Mission Times. Enjoy.
A simple drive through our beautiful little city in the country should confirm in you the suspicion that there are a lot of churches in town. The Abbotsford Bible-belt is full of them and, as a result, there are a lot of pastors who live here. It seems that I can’t go anywhere in this town without running into some pastor from some church just down the block. We’re everywhere. At your coffee shop. At the gym. Wondering if the traffic at Sumas will ever move. We are here.
Locally, there seems to be two popular and opposing perceptions of the value and worth of a pastor. The first perception is antagonistic. Often, those who hold this perception have been burned, hurt, or disenfranchised with church leadership and have decided that church leadership is synonymous with bad leadership. There are, no doubt, examples of church leadership that have been terribly destructive and should not be respected, trusted, or tolerated. However, to conclude that if one pastor is not to be trusted than all pastors should not be trusted is like saying that if country music is bad (which it is), than all music is bad. It’s bad logic.
The second view that I’ve come across in Abbotsford is that pastors can do no wrong. We hover in unattainable spiritual heights listening to praise music while conjugating Greek verbs and living a perfect and sinless life. We never drive like you do. We don’t curse, we’ve never had a fight with our spouse, and we certainly have never thought about skipping church. Business owners who hold this view often give us free coffee, cheap green fees, and discounts like you wouldn’t believe. Needless to say, my Dutch pastor friends and I really like this. And, while there is Biblical support for honoring and respecting spiritual leadership, the idea of pastor-on-a-pedestal has caused some serious dysfunction in the church.
The dysfunction is this: pastors are not the only ministers in the church. In fact, Scripture clearly outlines the idea that each person has unique gifts and abilities and has a significant part to play in the overall ministry of the church. And while the recognized pastor in your church has a unique role to play in the church, he doesn’t play all the roles. This would be like asking Roberto Luongo to single-handedly defeat the Chicago Blackhawks. It obviously doesn’t work!
Considering this, I’d like to make three affirmations about Christian ministry. First, all Christians have a unique call to some kind of Christian ministry. Each one of us follows Jesus’ example to feed the poor, preach the Good News, build inclusive communities, stand up for justice, comfort the hurting, and serve the needy. Each Christian, and not just the pastor, has the responsibility to follow Jesus into Christian ministry.
Second, there is a huge variety of ministries that you can be involved with. Changing the oil in a single moms’ car or moping up the mess that the pastors’ kid makes are not inferior to the more public ministries of teaching or leading. One is not superior to the other; they all work together for the common good, cause, and function of the church.
Finally, the type of ministry that you find yourself in will likely be centered around how God has wired and designed you. Your unique gifts and abilities combined with the hobbies, work, people, geography, or whatever that you’re passionate about should give you some indication as to what, where, how, and who you’ll serve in Christian ministry.
Simply, each Christian of the church is a minister, called into ministry, and has an important and unique role to play. And though us pastor types do enjoy what we do, we would be much more satisfied seeing each one of you finding your role and place in ministry along side of us.