|Found via Google Image search for "pastor".|
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?”