Several weeks ago, Debbie and I had a conversation about the role and function of a pastor. This began a time of revisiting the concept of pastor. Since then, my weekly meetings with Maria for her field education and a recent conversation with a friend have kept this issue in the front of my mind.
There are so many working models of pastoring. And it’s not my goal to critique them. I simply want to jot down my thoughts on the subject.
Several years ago, I was deeply impacted by John Frye’s book, Jesus the Pastor. I read it during a period of significant deconstruction in my life and ministry and it envisioned me with a fresh way of understanding my calling. Let me share a couple of choice quotes:
“Simply put, pastoring is bringing God to people. A pastor is one who brings God to people by imparting the Word of God (formally and informally) out of the reality of his or her life, which is undergoing authentic and continuous Christlike transformation. Just as in Jesus, the Word must become flesh in the pastor so that the transmission of truth is both exegetically sound and experientially real” (48-49)
“Pastoring is moving out from behind the pulpit into the lives of harassed and helpless people, bringing God to them in the ordinary time and space particulars of their lives… The pastor, having described the map of the soul in preaching, now serves as an ‘up close and personal spiritual guide into that vast inner terrain'” (91)
So here is my working definition of pastoring:
A pastor is one who is with people in order to 1) embody Christ’s life and presence to people, 2) envision people’s imaginations with God’s Story and life in God’s kingdom, and 3) equip people by training them in a way of life in Christ for spiritual formation, community and missional living.
I know there’s more to be said and that each section of the definition can and should be developed further. But at its core, pastoring is about relationships — relationships for embodying Christ, relationships for envisioning imaginations, and relationships for equipping for life in Christ.