Tuesday, June 7, 2011

3 Pastoral Musts (That Churches Don't Put in Job Descriptions)

There's lots of things pastors end up doing that weren't/aren't in the job description, things the pastoral search team or hiring committee did not tell them about, but not all of those are things a pastor ought to be doing. However, there are also some things a pastor must do that a church typically won't ask him to do (and sometimes won't appreciate when he does).

To lead a healthy community in Christ, a pastor must:

1. Work hard to keep a congregation from becoming co-dependent.


How this plays out is a strategic withholding of oneself. Not a distancing, not a neglect of real duty and care. The pastor's call is to feed the sheep. But it is also to equip the saints for ministry, and this can't happen if he does all the ministry himself. It is good to regularly hold back enough that if you were to get hit by a bus today -- or worse, have an affair with your secretary -- your church can live (and grow!) without you. Very few churches advertise for a pastor who will lead a church in such a way that they don't need him very much.

2. Spend a lot of time with his family.

Good churches appreciate this and allow space for it. Certainly there are pastors who sacrifice ministry on the altar of family, just as there are pastors who do the opposite, but setting idolatry either way aside, a good pastor will realize his first calling is to his family and will carve out lots of time for them. Many churches will say "Please put your family first" to a pastor, but when it gets right down to it, many struggle with confusion when a pastor gets down to refusing to meet on his day off or compromise commitments made to his family for requests from the people who pay his bills. Certainly a pastor should not ignore a real crisis, but requests are more frequent than crises.

3. Rebuke.

I'm a firm believer with Bonhoeffer's dictum that a pastor does not exist to be his congregation's accuser before God and man. Nevertheless, a pastoral "must" people rarely talk about is the appropriate biblical rebuke. Pastors often rebuke other people outside the church from the pulpit; very few are confident enough in the gospel to rebuke their own people (when it is warranted). Certainly some idiot souls make their living beating their people up from the pulpit and in the counseling room, but abuse is not what rebuke is. I've never seen a pastoral job description that said "Tell us when we're disobedient, lazy, or stubborn." With real love comes real correction; as the Lord disciplines those he loves -- not as punishment, not as wrath, but as corrective training -- a pastor who loves his people will rebuke them when necessary. (And they him. :-)

10 comments:

Dave said...

"Pastors often rebuke other people outside the church from the pulpit; very few are confident enough in the gospel to rebuke their own people."

It is far easier to rebuke a society which isn't present in the sanctuary, cannot answer back and is faceless. It is far harder to rebuke those you know, shepherd and love.

Which one is actually useful?

Jason Wert said...

I wonder how many pastors really know how to really rebuke in a way that leads to repentance and correction rather than just using "rebuke" as a way to slam critics or people within the church that aren't "in line."

I remember one time a pastor didn't like the way I wrote about a sermon he gave on my blog. It wasn't that I said anything negative, it's that I didn't get the lesson from the sermon he thought I should have gotten. So he proceeded to pull me aside the following Sunday and tell me that I had no business sharing my thoughts about the Bible because I wasn't a preacher and obviously didn't know what I was talking about if I didn't get his lesson from the sermon.

Silly me...I thought we were to take from the lesson what God brings to our mind from it. :)

Anyway, he called it a "gentle rebuke" of me. I called it pastoral bullying.

I would have loved to have him ask me why I received the lesson I did and why I didn't get "his" lesson from the sermon. I would have been very open to correction on my view of a passage of Scripture. A rebuke in that manner would have been great. Yelling rarely works.

Jared said...

Jason, I tried to qualify that part as much as possible without weakening it to say that rebuke is not abuse, beating, or gracelessly criticizing. I hope that is the takeaway.

I do know that all people are people of extremes, so when it comes to rebuke, pastors tend to err either on the "never" side or the "in your face without any grace" side.

(Did the guy really say you "had no business sharing your thoughts on the Bible"?)

Richard Moore said...

I love the "Spend a lot of time with your family". I don't feel like I'm doing great in that category but learning. God Help us do this better!

Candi Hiles said...

Wow, Jason. That kinda stinks. Someone should rebuke him. Perhaps a better approach would have been for him to take your comments into consideration and search himself before saying you were wrong.

yolanda said...

1. Study the Word.
2. Study your Wife/Family.
3. Study your City.

+Miguel said...

I feel for Jason. Pastoral bullying is rampant, and probably the main reason why Biblical rebuke does not take place. But there is a difference, and the cure for pastoral bullying is not silence, and it's not rebuking the world outside the church. It is rightly dividing law and gospel, declaring the law to rebellious hearts and grace to repentant sinners. A pastor has no ability to preach God's law if his church does not practice discipline and membership.

kathrynleighaz said...

I have a problem with something you wrote in the first point: "It is good to regularly hold back enough that if you were to get hit by a bus today -- or worse, have an affair with your secretary -- your church can live (and grow!) without you."

I have to say that this is REALLY unbiblical. I don't remember the Bible EVER saying that ANYONE should hold anything back. I'm pretty sure it says that opposite of that. Also, a pastor who holds back is modeling a behavior that he probably doesn't want his congregation to emulate. He probably doesn't want them holding back.

I agree that a pastor should equip his church for ministry and that each person needs to have his own relationship with God, but I don't believe a pastor equips people by "holding back".

Jared said...

Kathryn, the rest of that point explains what is meant by "holding back." If a pastor never holds back in that sense, he sets himself up for burnout and his congregation up for immaturity.

If you ignore the explanation of what is meant by "holding back," of course it can be neglect. But "one minister does it all" is what is unbiblical.

Jason Wert said...

"(Did the guy really say you "had no business sharing your thoughts on the Bible"?)"

Yeah. I lost a lot of respect for this guy on that day.