As a youth pastor there was one question that I despised. I mean hated with a passion. It all started innocently enough...someone would walk up and comment on the teens, their youth, their energy, my youth, and then say "So, when do you think you will become a real pastor?"
As though working with the teens was not real ministry or what I was doing was not real pastoring.
Every Thursday for the past six months I have been working at the food pantry at the Vineyard's Dayton Campus. We serve a meal and pray for people, and we give bags of groceries when we can. It has been a great time of serving and loving people.
One Thursday I asked this guy, "How are you today?" He responded, "Not very good." I asked a few follow-up questions, and listened for about 20 minutes as he shared some struggles and things that were going wrong in his life. I then asked, "Can I pray for you?"
He looked around nervously, hesitated for a moment, and then said, "Can I get a real pastor to pray for me?" Despite my best efforts, I couldn't convince him that I was a real pastor. I went and got one of the "real" pastors to come pray for him.
As I was thinking about this I realized there is a huge difference between the position of pastor and the role of pastor. Being a pastor can be a position or an assignment, but pastoring people is all about the relationship. I wasn't this guy's pastor, but I am the pastor for many others with whom I have built a relationship. I am their pastor not because I am an official pastor at the church, but because I have cared for them, loved them, and prayed for them. True pastoring must come from a relationship.
I guess that is why pastoring people does not just belong to the "professionals" in the church. Jesus never intended for the ministry to be done solely by the paid staff...He expected that each Christian would love their neighbors and Christian brothers and sisters enough to pastor them, to care for, to love and pray for them. There aren't enough "professionals" to do all the work that needs to be done for the Kingdom of God...it takes everyone who calls themselves by the name "Christian" actively pastoring the people around them.
Everyone gets the privilege of pastoring!