Recently a blog of mine was reprinted by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Seminary which sought to answer the question of “What does a Pastor Do?”
Upon hearing feedback from a wider audience about this post, I was amazed at how normal everything I wrote about sounded, but of great insight for especially lay folks. There’s still this idea that pastors work on Sunday and do nothing else during the week that still can’t be shaken with time. . .
Thus, when someone writes about what they actually do as a pastor, it seem that a lot of light bulbs go off. That yes, pastors might in fact, be some of the hardest working folks some people know in fact with the “always on-call” expectation from congregants!
Yet, today, I want to add to the conversation here and explain that what a pastor does if he or she is being true to the calling of the gospel might very well go outside the bounds of caring for their individual congregation members and staff. When a church employs a pastor in the full-time vocation of ministry, what they are doing is making a way for ministry to happen on a much wider scale. My ministry of writing on this blog is one example.
The way I look at is that when the church pays my full-time salary what they are doing is supporting my presence at many events and functions of service that I would not otherwise have the time to participate in. These are events and functions where folks have the opportunity to meet me and hopefully learn that pastors/ church/ talk about God isn’t as scary as it seems. It’s the ministry of planting seeds about the gospel.
For example, last Thursday, the schedule of my week suddenly changed (as it frequently does) because of a crisis situation in the local Reston/ Herndon community. A teenager had committed suicide . . . and a family without a church or a pastor needed someone to lead the service. Through a relationship I have with a local funeral home, I was the first one to get the call on this. The word from the director was, “We didn’t want one of the old guys to do this. Could you come?”
Of course, I could come. With this phone call, I entered a world of deep sadness without many spiritual resources and sought to bring some. Though I didn’t have the opportunity to meet this young girl personally, I talked about the gift of God’s love: that we are all precious in the sight of our Creator and how our purpose in this world is both to come to know of God’s deep affection for us and then be able to share such love with one another. I sought to spur the congregation gathered on to consider how the deceased didn’t believe how truly loved she was, but yet that we could honor her memory by seeking to believe this truth about ourselves.
More and more these days, I’m finding myself in the middle of situations like this one where I am able to come into relationships with folks on a spiritual level in the most unexpected places like in the nail salon, while out to dinner with a group of friends on a given night in the city, or among my husband’s friends or co-workers. These folks might never come to my church or yours, but they are willing to talk about issues of faith and life in an informal setting. And, I seem to be the only pastor some of these folks actually know.
The work of a pastor is more about “running the damm church” (as Eugene Peterson’s new memoir: The Pastor speaks of). It has and always will be about listening and being open to the Spirit of God’s calling. It’s about your and mine unique personality and living our life abudantly. And, then encouraging the people with whom you have been entrusted to do the same.
My prayer is that my own congregation continues to value this aspect of “What their pastor does?” and will continue to be patient with my schedule and meaningful relationships with folks outside our walls. It’s what a pastor does during the week, after all.