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February 16, 2009


   Suddenly I find myself very interested in blogs, and the views that other people hold of the Church today.  One I enjoy periodically is by Dan Kimball and you can check it out by going here.  It was a random statement at the end of the post that got me thinking.  It said, "In the part about "recalibrating leadership" I shared how I am not using the title "pastor" too often anymore for my role in the church. The reason is that I am wondering if we only use the title for the paid staff that it could actually limit those with "pastoring" gifts in the church to see themselves truly as pastor/shepherds."  It made me think a lot about my role at my church, and the idea of "Pastor."

   I serve on staff with a local church called Emmaus Road Community Church.  I've been a part of the congregation since 2002 when they first started holding meetings.  I officially went on staff about three years ago as the Youth Pastor...and there it is.  Pastor.  That is part of my official title, and to be honest, it felt really strange to call myself a pastor.  There is something in that title that connotes that somehow I have things together.  I am now a part of the "paid professional" religious people that I grew up admiring because they really knew their stuff, and somehow, they seemed just a little bit holier than the rest of us.  I wonder if this view is really as common as it was to me.  Do people really look to the people leading their church as the epitome or the pinnacle of faith?

   A couple of years ago, we started noticing that our lead pastor seemed to be moving at a frantic pace.  Things just never seemed to slow down for him, and it seemed like the pile of "stuff" he had to do kept growing.  We all felt the same thing...change was necessary and imminent.  One man, regardless of his passions or his spiritual gifts, cannot effectively run a church by himself.  Think about the things necessary to fulfill all the duties in the position that we call "Lead Pastor."  He has to be able to teach (anywhere and everywhere), counsel people, meet practical needs, show hospitality, disciple, shepherd, mentor, make hospital visits, perform weddings and funerals and the list could probably go on forever.  This does not even take into account the requirements of knowing important things like where the extra printer paper is stored or where the coffee pot ended up after the last potluck.  It just all seems unrealistic for one person right?

   That's when we began the process of getting rid of our lead pastor.  Sounds rough, but we all wanted it, including the lead pastor at the time.  We started looking at the Bible, and realizing that the terms we use for pastor, shepherd, overseer and elder were all the same thing.  The words are used interchangeably and represent the idea of the person who oversaw the functioning of the church.  The first thing that happened when churches are formed in the bible is appointing a team of elders to oversee it, not finding the person to serve as pastor.  Take a look at Acts 15, where there is disagreement regarding circumcision and Paul and Barnabas are sent to meet with the elders and apostles.  How about Acts 20 where Paul summons the elders of the church to give his last discourse.  Maybe 1 Peter 5, where Peter addresses how they are to oversee the church until the "Chief Shepherd" appears.  Also in 1 Timothy and Titus, a list of qualifications is given of one who seeks to be an elder.  People in these roles should be full of integrity and grace, and able to uphold scripture.  However, the Bible makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 12, that not everyone is spiritually gifted the same ways.  Why do we expect the lead pastor to fulfill all the spiritual gifts?  

   We are about to have a church vote to affirm our first elders at Emmaus.  Instead of a lead pastor stretching himself too thing, we have people gifting in teaching...actually teach.  We have people who have a shepherds heart...shepherding people.  We have people who are gifted in hospitality...helping ensure practical needs are meant.  People who are gifted in administration...helping with email, internet and bookkeeping responsibilities.  You get the idea...the priesthood of all believers.  I saw this online once - The New Testament church could be described as a group of believer-priests led by a team of pastor-elders.  Yes we have people on staff who are paid to fulfill various roles. However, as it says in Ephesians 4, "11And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;" we aren't being paid to do it all ourselves, but to equip the saints to do it.  We aren't the pinnacle!  We are here to serve alongside the people who make up Emmaus Road.  We know we haven't arrived, but that we are on journey together, learning new things about Christ every single day.  We are all pastors.


Matt Coulter said...

Great post, bro! I love it. I love the thought of if we call ourselves pastors just because we are paid staff, then it limits people who actually have the gift of shepherding in the congregation from using that gift.

That's all a "pastor" is - someone with the gift of shepherding. That's it. Somehow the church has twisted that to make it everything you wrote about in this blog. This is a great challenge and freeing message!

One nitpicky thing - "pastor" and "shepherd" are the same word in Greek, and "overseer" and "elder" are the same word -- but those two words are different from one another (poimen and presbyteros). Doesn't take anything away from your main point, though!

Jon Kelly said...

There are different words for them, but it really seems the function of all of them is the same, or at least extremely similar. Thanks!