January 7, 2009

I Want to Be a Real Boy

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!


  1. EXACTLY! I seriously JUST talked about this tonight! People who come to me and I "pastor" who know they can come to me... understand this... and I have peeps that aren't my pastor who "pastor" me... its awesome. I get so frustrated when people need a title, badge, position... whatever to BE the church.

    I think requiring anyone to have a badge, title, or be "approved" on some level by the leadership of a church (and then labeled as such, given a badge... etc) is ridiculous. If we truly were the church, we wouldn't even think of such things. We would naturally care for each other out of those relationships...

    I remember getting scolded for praying for someone without a badge. That person was someone I had a deep RELATIONSHIP with... someone that I pastored in and out of the "church" (well the building). They came to me because they trusted me. They didn't go to the "real" Pastor scolding me because there was NO RELATIONSHIP. I was willing to get scolded because being that persons "pastor" at the time and putting them before God and interceding for them was more important to me than the approval or disapproval of any man.

    We need to stop segregating people, putting labels on them and calling that "approved". We need to start teaching all people how to pastor, build solid biblical relationships and be "pastors" to each other. If we did that...

    ... would there be the "Pastor Burnout" that we are seeing? Would the professionals be overwhelmed so much?

    I don't think so.

    Sorry for the long comment but seriously this has been on my heart for SO long and I literally just had a deep conversation with someone about this only hours ago.

    Amazing how God confirms things to you like that. Awesome.

  2. Ronni,

    We know each other...so you take this with the humility with which it is meant.

    I do think that there is a place for both. There must be those who are called by both God and the church and "approved" to lead the ministry. God has always chosen leaders. And, if for nothing else, they are in place to teach the rest of the lessons of submission and obedience.

    On top of those...we need people to pastor other people.

    I don't think you can have it one way without the other and the Church still work properly. You need the called and approved leaders AND you need the people in the church pastoring.

    That's my two cents. What do you think?


  3. Eric,
    I agree w/you that God chooses the leaders=Pastor(uppercase P) who in turn teach, lead, and enable the rest of us to pastor(lowercase p). As for your recent experience, it is often a matter of perception as to who is the Pastor. Remember, many of us older folks (careful, I'm allowed to say that about me; you're not) equate "Pastor" to someone who looks more the part - not hip and young such as yourself. And if you go telling Doug I said he's not hip, I will get you! :) Linda

  4. Someone once came up to Jason and I and said we were going to be pastors at the Dayton Campus. (This is before we started attending there.)

    We didn't think of this as a staff position, but a place of leadership and responsibility. We hope we live up to it - we definitely love what we're doing there.

    You'll always be a real pastor to us. :)

  5. Linda,
    I won't tell Doug...I am just happy to still be considered "hip and young." It won't last long.

    Cyndi, I was glad to see you guys start investing there. I think you and Jason have an opportunity for some great ministry.

  6. Oh we need both, but the minute we say that only the "real pastors" can minister... that's the problem. HUGE problem...

    And the problem with "badges" and making it very obvious to other that "those are the ministers" is that it says to everyone else... and your not. Even if they ARE in the Kingdom. I've held both. I've been the "real" pastor with the badge, the office and the responsibilities... and I've been without all that and there is such freedom not having the badge. The problem is, we have required badges so long now... that like you experienced... people won't be ministered to by you even when it is obvious God put you in their lives for a reason. And so, they miss out on a possible HUGE blessing from God because of it.

    That just hurts my heart, because now I see so often people only want the "approved" people to minister to them.

    How much of the Kingdom is thwarted because someone doesn't have the proper "badge" or title?

    Hurts your heart just thinking about it doesn't it?

    I remember one pastor actually saying to me that he thought I was searching for a title or a position... that was never the case. I was trying to find a place within his organization that people would accept the giftings God has given me and allow me to minister to them within the confines of the system that body put in place. I had to go from place to place to place trying to find it but I never did.... and I watched some of my spiritual children die and wander off because I wasn't allowed to minister to them when we both knew God put us together.

    Some of them are still away from Him. You can bet that God and I have had some pretty intimate conversations about that.

    We need to accept that with or without a title, or badge... we are all His hands and feet.

    Before anyone says anything else, I'll state that this does NOT mean we don't honor and respect those in authority and give them respect for the anointings and responsibilities given to them by God.

    We just need to give honor and respect to each other.