But it’s not what you think.
First, let me say that I think overall we’ve done a grave disservice to the title and meaning of “pastor.” Because when I say “pastor,” don’t you automatically only think of people who work at church buildings and deliver sermons on Sunday mornings??
It’s sad, if you think about it.
We almost always use “pastor” as a noun only, as a label, as a title: “Pastor So-and-So of Such-and-Such Church.” It may certainly be used as a noun, but it is also a verb! All of us can and do pastor each other all the time — incidentally, mostly outside of church buildings, where the largest majority of pastoring is needed since most of us spend 166 hours of our week outside of church.
Also, unfortunately, we’ve reserved the title of “pastor” only for those who have jumped through our denominationally-imposed standards of education and vocational equipping.
By hoarding the title for the elite few, we’ve accidentally turned those few humans into the only living spiritual heroes or heroines we know. The poor things! What infinite pressure this accidentally puts on them! After all, they are just humans, too. They go back and forth between work and home every day, just like the rest of us, figuring out how to live and move and have their being in Christ. Their marriages are messy, just like ours. Their kids struggle within and without, just like ours. They don’t feel like praying and reading the Bible every goddamn day, just like the rest of us.
And, by hoarding the title for the elite few, oh how we miss out on the quiet pastors and pastoras among us who do at least as much if not more of the waiting on, serving, overseeing, and care taking of us day in and day out. (These italicized words are the what the Greek words for “pastor” have as their meaning and undertones.)
No, when I say I need pastoring, I have something else in mind. It’s not less than you think, it’s more. Way more.
I need way more than one person with the title of “pastor” that I see from a distance for a couple of hours one morning per week. I need a whole team of pastors popping in and out of my every day life, each with different gifts, insight, and help.
And I need way more than to hear a once-per-week sermon. I need to learn to hear the sermons that are floating in and around and all about my life constantly, preaching Grace and Truth and Love on the fly, in the moment, exactly when I’m in greatest need of pastoring, whether I know it or not.
Yes, we all need pastoring. And all of us are invited into the vast work of gently pastoring one another every day of the week.
Last week we went to the sea for a few days with dear friends. We stayed in the same big house together with all our kids. We ate together, played games together, played in the sand together, watched Honey, I Shrunk the Kids together, watched the rain together. And we pastored each other. (Though none of us have “pastor” as our regular job title.) Their baby was pretty sick and had a few hours off and on of being really fussy. We took turns holding the baby, pastoring the baby, giving each other breaks from the baby, inventing ways to keep the baby happy. Also, my kids are really loud. They took them down to the beach one afternoon so that I could actually take a nap! Then, one afternoon, two of the adults got in a fight over some legitimately difficult circumstances. Together, all four adults listened, coached, raised our voices, asked questions, affirmed, fought some more, and patiently pastored us all together to greater ways of seeing and understanding.
Though it wasn’t exactly happy and comfortable in the moment, in the end I was so grateful for the fussy baby and the loud kids. I guess I was just mostly so glad for us — that we’d created a culture where we could take turns sacrificing our own needs and agendas for the sake of each other.
Though it wasn’t exactly happy and comfortable in the moment, in the end I was so grateful for the fight. I guess I was just mostly so proud of us — that we’d created a culture where two people could have a very normal fight in front of each other and we could all work through it in a healthy way that led to resolution and actually even stronger relationships between us all.
We all need pastoring, every day. And we all need to offer our Love and our gifts to pastor alongside the people around us, every day. Because we need pastoring pastors everywhere, every day: care giving, overseeing, teaching, preaching, sermonizing, serving, being the humble spiritual heroes and heroines we need in a thousand different ways. We are all invited to learn the care-full, humble, messy, servant’s work of self-sacrificially pastoring one another in all of the moments of our lives, everywhere we go.
Will you let yourself be pastored? Will you humbly pastor the people around you?