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Reflecting on the role of pastors

September 8, 2008

A couple days ago I started the book They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball. I haven’t made it past the introduction because of a story Dan shared from a conference he spoke at. He was speaking to about five hundred middle aged pastors of a conservative denomination about how pastors spend their time and structure their work. Dan and many of the pastors fell on opposite sides of the issue. Dan presented ideas of pastors meeting people where they are in the community, talking in coffee shops, structuring work and work hours in different ways. “Someone commented that they couldn’t possibly go to a coffeehouse like that, since their church expects them to be available in the church office during the week to care for the ‘flock’ (his word).” Many others felt the same way.

I was raised in a mainline church where my father was a pastor. I was raised with pastors that worked in church offices, where there were normal business hours, although that didn’t necessarily mean the pastor was in due to meetings, funerals, hospital visits, etc. Now I attend a non-denominational church where there is no church office and no cell phone, but my pastor is available via cell phone, email, and IM. Just last week he emailed me at midnight and I was able to respond during my free time at lunch the next day. I have not had a problem making this switch over the years as our culture has changed and become more technical and more fluid. Maybe that is aided by the fact that I work in the technology sector.

This has left me reflecting on what the role of a pastor should be. Not about what our denominations, traditions, or culture tell us about the pastor’s role, but relecting on what scripture tells us. It has left me reevaluating my beliefs about pastors and wondering how often I have been frustrated or had reactions to things I have seen and heard from pastors due to my preconceived ideas rather than about what best serves the culture and needs of my community.

What is the role of a pastor? How should that be walked out in our communities? Are there universal elements to a pastor’s role, or can the role look completely different depending on what they are pastor of (head pastor, children’s pastor, outreach pastor, missions pastor) and where they are a pastor? Have you ever been frustrated or had reactions to pastors due to your preconceived ideas, or if you are a pastor have you felt that from people in your church? How can we change that (and should we)?

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