I got some great responses from friends, mentors, and colleagues on this whole multi-vocational model of pastoral ministry. The responses were so good, in fact, I feel like I need to respond to them to sufficiently conclude my blog from earlier in the week. They’re points worth mentioning, because they clarify a lot of things I didn’t say in my initial post.
1. The connection of relational-“shepherding” in pastoral ministry, Part 1. A lot of people disagree with my “attack” on the image, or pastoral model of “shepherd.” I still contend it has serious limitations as a model in our world today. But one person suggested an important insight: “but deep relationships are formed when people allow us into those deep moments in where they need spiritual care…which happens as pastor.”
I realize that I’m implying I’m putting things like pastoral care and relationship-forming at the altar of being missional leader. However, all those “pastoral” roles that we serve in and the things that pastors “typically” do – I’m still doing them. I make visits to the hospital, to shut-ins. I take time to visit with folks and getting to know their stories. And while my face time is certainly limited, I would contend that deep relationships are forming.
But for me, my role as multi-vocational pastor “sharpens” the relationships. I’m not their always-available friend who will come by for a chat unannounced, and I’m not the “religious/spiritual EMT.” It sharpens the relationship, I believe, because it’s something we both mutually have to enter into and be intentional about. I’m certainly there for them when they need their pastor. My point is, however, that they can also be there for each other just as I am – they can visit in times of need, they can pray with each other, they can wrestle with tough questions….they can even share the sacrament with each other (within the guidelines of the bishop, of course!).
2. The connection of relational-“shepherding” in pastoral ministry, Part 2. Back to the “shepherd” model. I get that it’s a biblical model. I get that a lot of pastors identify with it. I just simply don’t find it helpful. Here’s my more cynical view.
The image of “Shepherd” to me implies expectation – the congregation always will have an expectation that your primary responsibility is tending to them and to the church. But what if the “sheep” were empowered to tend to each other and to the church? How might that foster a different (and I think, better) sense of church as community?
This is my #1 point out of this: there is no one “right” model of pastor. The context will provide the model needed in each case. However, this requires critical assessment of existing models and openness to new ones in our discernment. This reflective process can never be “optional” for anyone serving as a pastor or leader in the church.
3. Pastor as authentic self is important. As mentioned above, not every model applies across a context, and the same is true across people as well. That’s what makes pastoral ministry great – different people bringing their different gifts to serve God in many ways.
I’ve learned (and just about every disagreement I’ve had about pastoral ministry and identity) that most people are not comfortable with confrontation. I prefer direct honesty, and I have experienced both growing pains and wonderful growth with that these past 6 months. I guess this is who I am, and I don’t think I can suppress it because then I wouldn’t be authentic in my relationships with my congregations. They wouldn’t be getting an authentic pastor – and I think that’s important.
But the relationship part is important. There are two things I’ve learned – probably not just these past 6 months, but my whole life – about being a confrontational person as a leader.
One: choose your battles. Enough said on that one.
Two: I’ll tell them the truth. I’ll challenge them. But I’ll tell them why even more, and every chance I get. I tell both churches over and over the potential I see in them. I tell them I think God has a future for them – although it may not be what they expect. I affirm to them the ways I’ve seen them love each other and others, and how they’ve loved me. I’ll tell them their witness is even more vital than ever before, especially in a religious landscape that is predominantly evangelical. I’ll affirm and celebrate their gifts…..and push them even further to use them, because God could do some wonderful thing through them, and how awesome would that feel?
I’m critical, I’m honest because I care.
As I review what ‘ve just written this past week, I realize that much of what I’ve said isn’t unique to bi/multi-vocational ministry. It really permeates what everyone is doing in ministry. However, I just think, given the unique demands and balance of vocational spheres for this pastor, these things are amplified somehow. And I think, that in 6 short months, it’s amazing what we’ve been able to learn from each other and what we’ve been able to do to be healthy, Christ-centered communities of faith.
In fact, I’d invite ya to come visit sometime and check us out!