Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Is a Pastor Expected To Do?

Found via Google Image search for "pastor".
Thesis Project part 1

I am wildly behind on my thesis project work.

I think about it every day, more than a passing thought.  It’s not just the “blank white page syndrome,” where you struggle to start writing because you've got a whole, empty page to fill up.  I think it’s the “blank white book syndrome.”  There’s so much to be said, so much to say, so much to research and read, that I start to experience paralysis.

It starts with this question, “What is a pastor?” or this question, “What does a pastor do?”

Having been at this (pastoring, not the thesis project) for almost 30 years, you’d think I’d have a ready definition or description. And I do. I have my own.  But as I read the work others have done it has become apparent that mine is as different from theirs as theirs are from each other’s. I’m fascinated by the sheer number of pastors working around the world and the fuzziness that surrounds the description of what we do.

Mirriam-Webster online comes up with this, “PASTOR - noun \ˈpas-tər\ :  a spiritual overseer; especially :  a clergyman serving a local church or parish — pas•tor•ship  noun. Origin of PASTOR, Middle English pastour, from Anglo-French, from Latin pastor herdsman, from pascere to feed — First Known Use: 14th century.”  When you look for the verb form, Mirriam defaults to the classic no-no and uses the word in the definition – pastoring is to pastor.  Sure it is.

But I can’t blame Mirriam’s ambiguity on a lack of research.  We who claim the title have taken it on quite a ride over the last 2000 years.  I can default to what I think is a biblical definition of pastoring but that fails to recognize the complexities of both the life and the times in which we live and others have lived before us.  In part, this is precisely why I am developing my thesis project around a classic approach to pastoring.  A classic approach takes in to account the richness of pastoral tradition and history.  Rather than re-inventing our role for a new generation we can make the most of the deep wells others have already dug, stand on the shoulders of giants and anchor our expectations in generations of experience.

One of the great challenges to a classic approach though will be modern expectations of pastor as CEO and entrepreneurs who turn their start-ups and small businesses into Big Boxes and franchise locations.  I’m on the hunt for a Mega-Church pastor who has maintained a classic approach to pastoring.  Let me know if you see one.

In the meantime, my question du jour is, “What is a pastor expected to do?”


  1. Well definitely you have to play sanctuary softball at least once. It doesn't hurt to bring shovels full of snow into the church and throw it at people once in a while. haha. Of course I think what you said earlier is true that you make the most of the deep wells others have dug by going back to the same thing namely, bringing people to the one true source of living water and continually getting them to get their focus off their programs, their hangups, their agendas and back to the source of life. The evangelist brings them hangups and all to the place where there's living water which is relationship in it's fullest sense. The Pastor not only shows them how to draw the water but continually helps them get their focus back on it and away from their narcasistic tendencies. Then he/she teaches them to make disciples and do the same. At least that is what it seemed like you did best. I see lots of people you pastored pastoring other people today but they don't work in the traditional pastor job. They certainly are interested in bringing people to the well and teaching them how to drink for themselves though. That's exciting! I expect a pastor to pursue God with all that he/she has and teach others to do the same. When they inevitably fail they hopefully have taught others some pastoring skills to remind the pastor where the living water is and how God is ever faithful to come to us. Easier said then done but I seen it happen. Thanks Jeff

  2. Thanks Jeff. You make it sound simple! Simple is good.

    I suppose then, in our present day, the pastor also needs to delegate (or never take on) all the other 'duties as assigned'. But then it begs the questions, 'what is the measure of your success?' of the church which she/he pastors. Can a pastor lead a church that has a different measure than the one he uses?