Sunday, November 12, 2006

21. Pastor

"Ummmm.......I need to speak with the pastor." Is it a title or a function? It is most often used as a title. In reality, it is a function, like the rest of the gifts in Ephesians 4. So why do we use it as a title? Well, the answer to this is multidimensional, bu t I think I will tackle this one from the institutional dimension. (Surprise right?) When a church becomes institutional in nature, the functions of the body tend to gravitate towards fixed and static processes. In other words, because institutions, by default, exert a tremendous gravitational pull towards self preservation, the people within the institutions tend to be forced into positions of maintenance within the institution. And the nature of these positions are more often than not dictated by the needs of the institution, rather than the giftedness of the individual. In short, the tail ends up wagging the dog.

This reversal of services is clearly seen in the institutional churches role of pastor. While there are varied examples and scenarios, I will be speaking to this situation as some one with an apostolic and prophetic orientation. This of course limits my perspective, but what other choice do i have?

Now then, what normally happens is that someone with an apostolic, prophetic, or evangelistic gifting comes into an interview with a group of elders, search committee, or some other group responsible for hiring a "pastor", and displays a visionary, evangelistic or apostolic dimension in the interview. As a result, the hiring committee is impressed and attracted to their natural passion for the Kingdom and sees them as the thing they have been missing in their church. As a result, the individual is hired for his gifting, but then forced to function as an administrator or pastor. This is extremely frustrating for the apostle, prophet or evangelist who does not possess the gift of administration or pastoring. Frustration and disillusionment sets in and the "pastor" starts looking else where, to another church for a new beginning where things might be different. All along, wondering why he can only stay somewhere 2-4 years at a time without being wooed into another "pastors" position with promising possibilities of using his gifts. Only to repeat the cycle again, or, worse, settle down and perform as "pastor", all the while neglecting their gifting.

So what is a pastor? The picture above of ? protecting herself and absorbing the attack of the enemy is a perfect metaphor. The pastor is a protector, carer, humanizer, preserver. They look inward to the needs of the community. They are loyal to its needs and concerns. Do not talk to a pastor about leaving the flock to go searching for the one. They will stay with the 99 every time. They are not thrill seekers or adventurous. They are the nurturers. Leave the 99 to the apostle or evangelist. Let the prophet and teacher stimulate the apostle and evangelist into going after the one. But the pastor would never dare leave his flock. He will protect them at a ll costs. Even if it means compromising his convictions.

In the institutional church, the pastors surface as the ones who are the preservers of community. They guard and value the homogeneous nature of community. I am of course speaking of the function of a pastor. The title of pastor, in the institutional church is sometimes altogether different. The "pastor" in an institutional church functions as the administrator and symbolic mediator of the organization. I say symbolic mediator because many times they are forced to mediate to the congregation a in a public way, or through preaching, a visual representation of all the gifts.

Because Sunday morning is the primary venue by which the "pastor" is seen and interpreted, there is a tremendous pressure for him to portray himself as a multi-dimensional persona. Instead of letting the apostles be the apostles, and the evangelists be the evangelists, the "pastor", either willingly or by unspoken expectations, attempts to gather with in himself the the other gifts, vindicating the church's decision to place him in the position of "pastor."

When the pastor does not effectively portray this, several things can naturally happen. First, the church can become disenchanted with the pastor, and look for a new performer. Secondly, and this is the more likely, the church begins to take on the personality of the "pastor." This clonoing bleeds through despitethe best efforts of the pastor to disseminate through example and teaching the other giftings. This involuntary cloning is inevitable because of the way the institutional church is structured and formatted. Thirdly, the "pastor" becomes disillusioned by their own inability to play the role they have been given, and sinks into depression, cynicism or apathy.

So after pointing out the negatives, is there anything good to be said of the function Pastor. Well, to start with, thank God pastor is something you do and not who you are. It is a function. and those with the gift of pastoring have a unique ability to facilitate community, nurture a community, and protect a community. They are the relational guardians of community per se. If we were to fit tem into the over all scheme of the 5 gifts in Ephesians four, it would be in relation to comunity.

1. Apostle: Elicits and Pioneers a community through the message of Jesus
2. Prophet: Stimulates and Ignites a community with the message
3. Evangelist: Emboldens and Adds to a community through sharing of the message
4. Pastor: guards and nurtures the personal and communal needs of a community

The gift of pastoring is an inward gifting. It is focused inward to the needs and empowerment of the community. This inward nature of pastoring is a two edge sword. It is extremely unhealthy when not held in check by the first three gift. with out the apostles, and evangelists, a community will gravitate into serving its own needs and eventually become a closed culture of self centered individuals. Conversely, the same can be said of the apostles and evangelsits. If you do not have any pastors functioning in a community, the needs of the comunity will go malnourished. This will happen right under the nose of the apostle or evangelist with out their atention. However, when you have godly pastors, and vibrant apostles and evangelists parntering in the body, watch out! You are o nthe verge of a healthy and vibrant community.

Too often, the apostles or the pastors have dominated with their own perspectives in leadership. Always wanting to reach more people to the neglect of the ones already in the community, or by pastors giving continuous attention to the community, with no regard for the culture around them that needs to be penetrated with the message.

So how do you solve this problem? In my experience, the only ay to solve this problem is to not have a sunday, preacher/"pastor" centered church. The current forms and structures of churches create a bottle neck of energy, information, perspective and chrisma through the pulpit. This needs to be decentralized into a setting where every person can use their giftings. The only way that I can see this happening is in some type of organic system.