Naming it.. We’re stuck in between Pastor Roles

The other month I was a church communications conference and had the privilege to meet Dr. Craig van Gelder. Now, Craig (cause we are close buds now) wasn’t on my radar per se, but we were both speaker peeps at this thing and he sat in on my session & I on his and we got to chatting in between times. I really enjoyed the guy.

Anyways, his main keynote went through a history of roles for the pastors of churches. It was rather fascinating to see how he broke it down. How I’ll break it down for you is this, in the earliest histories of the church the pastor was a “resident theologian” (the guy who did all the study and translation for the individual church) or maybe the “civic leader” (you see this in movies how the pastor is always one of the town leaders, or main leader). Fast forward and you get into the 20th century and the pastor role has shifted to the “pastoral counselor” (we want mainly pastoral care as well as a good sermon). But today’s church has moved into more of this “entrepreneurial pastor” role (we want a pastor who can build, and build big.. as well as give a good sermon).

All this swirled in my head as I started reading this posting by Mark Meyer on what the church can learn from business. Mark has some fine points for record, I wouldn’t argue out that they are thoughtless or anything like that. I will say, they do reflect this new culture of pastoral leadership, this ‘entrepreneurial pastor’ type.

The problem here is that many of our pastors and those who have grown up to be a pastor came into the calling with a ‘pastoral counselor’ identity. They want to give guidance and assistance to people, they were not necessarily called to build big temples and have huge audiences (though some believe they were, that’s fine). The trip here is that our congregations are stuck in some limbo that they can not name. And it is that tension that exists because people don’t know how to examine and name that cultural set up we have.

Truth be told, business is taking over way more church practices than church needs to take from business (the base of Stick Sheep, go read it!). Churches are already well versed in business world practices, they’ve been around for a few centuries or more.. not sure many businesses that can claim that. Mark’s issue & many others is just that the church doesn’t want to become entrepreneurial again..

So I’m naming it, in my own UMC we’re stuck in this in between of a culture of pastors taught to be pastoral counselor when yet, our culture is telling our congregations that we want a pastor who will come in an be an entrepreneur. It’s a real pickle to be in and has been the torture of some really great pastors.. that unfortunately were not called to an entrepreneur.

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