A Pastoral Epistle!
It is a special joy to warmly welcome Tim, Melody and Ethan Martin to Cambray, as Tim comes to join us as our new Associate Pastor. We are delighted that the mind of the gathered church sensed the will of God prompting us that Tim Martin was to be God’s choice for this role, and that they should move to Cheltenham to join our team here.
As I reflect back on the process that Cambray went through during 2013 towards this appointment, I have been caused to think again and again about the peculiar role/job/ministry that being a pastor entails. Our church family had to grapple hard with what sort of pastor was wanted and, more importantly, what we needed. Maybe like many jobs, no one can fully appreciate the many facets of life and work that are inextricably linked with faithful pastoral work unless they have exercised such ministry, so I thought I would use this month’s ‘pastoral epistle’ to welcome Tim to the new role, and to expand on some of my thinking regarding what on earth being a pastor involves!
What on earth does a pastor do?
I ask this question with serious concerns that our evangelical Christian sub-culture in the UK has lost a biblical sense of the pastoral calling. Even the name ‘pastor/pastoral’ sounds more agricultural than the business models often expected today. For many pastors working 60+ hours a week, with such wide ranging expectations placed on them, it is no surprise that many burn out and end up leaving paid ministry with a loss of gospel optimism.
For a light hearted angle at some of the tensions in this peculiar calling, let me quote a piece I came across a few years ago, entitled ‘The Perfect Pastor’:
The perfect pastor preaches for exactly 10 minutes; anymore and it’s too long, any less and obviously they haven’t prepared the sermon properly.
The perfect pastor earns £50 a week, wears good clothes, drives a good car, and donates £30 a week back to the church.
The perfect pastor is 29 years old, has 40 years experience and is married with lots of well-behaved children to boost the youth work.
The perfect pastor makes 15 house calls a day, and is always available in their office.
If your pastor does not measure up to these minimum standards, just send this letter on to 6 other churches that are also dissatisfied with their pastor…
Then bundle up your own pastor and send him/her to the church at the top of the list…
In one week you should receive the names of 1643 pastors, and one of them should be perfect for you.
PS. Have faith in this letter. One church broke the chain, and got its own pastor back in 3 months!
Seriously though, what is God’s call for someone to become a pastor and lead a local church all about? In Acts 6, when the early church was struggling to juggle the practical logistics of care for needy groups and there were frequent complaints in their community, the Apostles called for some who were full of the Spirit and wisdom’ to be set aside to ‘deacon’ (serving practical needs), thus enabling the 12 to ‘give their attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word’.
The template for some leaders called to be pastors or ‘shepherds of God’s flock’ was formulated by Jesus as the Great Shepherd (John 21) and Peter (1 Peter 5:2-4). In that sense, the call to be a pastor always starts with God taking the initiative, leaving the one called feeling incredibly weak and inadequate just like Jeremiah (1.5) and many others.
In that strange mix of felt personal weakness and need, the pastor called by God is expected to lead God’s people by FEEDING, CARING, PROTECTING, and LEADING, as the the shepherd motif suggests. Although these days it seems that leadership has become synonymous with what seems more like a Chief Executive role, with pressure on to grow the ‘business’ for God and the local church, keeping the Charity Commissioners happy.
Given the impossibility of all this in our own strength, how about a brief reminder of some New Testament emphases for the pastor’s lot – to listen to the Bible, to pray, to preach and teach, to serve, to receive more of the Holy Spirit’s anointing for ministry, discernment when called to step in to situations, praying for the sick, equipping God’s people for works of service within the body of Christ, and doing the work of an evangelist wherever possible. In all of this and more, surely being pastor and people is far more than going from one successful project or event to another or even from one sermon to the next. We walk together and follow the way of the cross, to know Christ Jesus as Lord, our Good Pastor.
Thankfully, HE IS ABLE!