In thinking of the role of a pastor under the understanding of the Friends Church many things must be considered. What is the role of a paid individual in an organization where ministry, business and the decision making process is performed by a group and not individuals? More specifically what is my role in this position? Traditionally the pastor is seen as a Shepard or leader of the flock. Among Friends we see the Shepard as being Christ Himself with no need for a middle person between God and humanity. Yet there is a reason for the role of pastor. From my perspective it is to advise.
The first and possibly the most important part of the role is to advise the meeting on scripture. This is the place of the vocal ministry and probably the most visual aspect of the pastor. The vocal ministry is advice as well as encouragement. This advice on scripture doesn’t stop at the pulpit though; they are to also advise those teaching in various settings to gain understanding. They do not necessarily have to have total knowledge of scripture but should be encouraged to create an environment where others can discuss what God is saying historically, culturally, and practically.
The second role of the pastor is one of spiritual director. A spiritual director is a trendy word, but one that I feel fits a pastoral role better than counselor. As a spiritual director a pastor meets with people on a more individualized basis to advise and encourage them to deepen their relationship with God and those around them. This is similar to a counselor because often times the spiritual and interpersonal aspects of life merge, but it is different a pastor may not have proper training to help people get a grip on deep emotional wounds, and that is why professional counselors have emerged in our culture. Yet there is still a role for the pastor to encourage, advise, and walk with people in this. As a spiritual director their role in counsel is more directed in helping other develop a lifestyle of prayer, devotion, ministry service, and biblical study applications. These may help emotionally as well since our spiritual and emotional aspects of life are connected.
The third role is to advise the Meeting. I do not feel that in the Friends Church that the pastor is the leader, if they were there would not be the need for the Clerk. The pastor is there to encourage prayerful consideration and to ask questions of individuals as they consider ministry. After advice is given then encouragement is provided. I find as a pastor I am often slowing people down so they can consider multiple aspects of an issue. At times this may seem like I am trying to control the direction of the Meeting, but as an advisor the wish is to encourage the Meeting to consider various options, use of resources, and to not get caught up in popular trends but to seek the leading of Christ. This is one of the hardest aspects of pastoral ministry in the Friends Church since often I feel as if I am opposing the Meeting. The reality of it is that the pastor is trying to encourage potential ministers to develop their positions, and to seek prayerful guidance and direction. When there is clearness the ministers enter the meeting for business with confidence along with the backing and support of the pastor to help advise the Meeting.
Most of the pastoral role in the Friends Church is unseen; it is backstage so to speak, even though pastors regularly speak publicly in the meetings for worship. This role is present even in the unprogrammed Meeting. This is the reason that the role of pastor is listed as a spiritual gift.
By no means is the pastor to be the only doer of church ministry. The hands and feet of the body of Christ, which is the church, are all those called to various tasks? The role of the pastor is for advice, encouragement, and direction. They come along side others so they can do the work they are called to do. The role of the pastor is one among many. It is a specialized role one that does require training at times, and the devotion of time not necessarily required by other ministers in the Meeting.
The last role of a pastor is that of the contact person for the community. They are the representatives of the Meeting to people who do not understand our processes. A pastor must understand that even though they speak for the Meeting they are not the Meeting, and should bring matters of consequence to the Meetings to be considered. All of these things require time, energy, and some training (either education or practical application). These tasks can be spread through several members of the meeting but often these gifts are found in only a few.
Since this role is specialized and often only found in particular members, they should have some compensation for the time and energy they devote to the Meeting, to advise them corporately and individually. This of course is something the meeting should consider. Is there a member who is devoting so much time advising the Meeting in these roles that they are having to sacrifice time to make a living?
I have been a pastor in three different Meetings and have yet to learn fully where to draw the lines. I have been asked to give reports in our Meetings for Business yet am unsure of what to report, because most of a pastors activity is done in confidence. It occurs between individuals and specific groups. So I have generally just reported on the growth and passion I observe while attending the various meetings and conversations with emerging ministers. Ending always with encouraging the Meeting to embrace the leadings of those who speak of their ministry passions even if they do not fit the traditional ideas of ministry. I do not know if other pastors have struggled with their role within their various Meetings and would enjoy a conversation with anyone and their observations of their roles when they apply their gifts.
Spanish Translation via google docs.
There has been quite a bit of talk about the rapture of late. My family really got into the discussion when the Left Behind series came out. But there has always been something about this teaching that has left me wondering. If God’s plan is to remove His people from inpending doom then why have so many Christians had to live through great tribulation? When we look at history there have been many times where Christians were persicuted for their beliefs. Some were killed, some exciled, others just ridiculed. Even in more recent history many Christians in the former Soviet Union were sent to the gulog as a result of their beliefs. (Read Father Arseny, 1893-1973: Priest, Prisioner, spiritual Father). For me that was a time and place where a raputure would have been most welcome. But God didn’t rapture His people, he alowed them to live through it.
I believe that tribulation faces all of us. For most of us, this tribulation is not a physical but one of a spiritual nature. How we face and pull through these trials is what really matters. When we face trials with hope, joy, praise, and faith in God then our lives become a blessing. Also when we face trials with negativity then we are consumed, not being a reflector of God’s light but the darkness of the world. I hope that as we face the days after the latest rapture scare we will think of what rapture really means. It is being caught up, I hope we all will be caught up with God as we worship Him in spirit and truth.
Worship is the rapture we all can participate in, in all situations. When we worship we enter into the realm of God, we are no longer caught in the darkness of the world around us, but we are caught in the Light. Worship and prayer is an area of life we can enter no matter where we are, or situation we are in. When we are in a life of prayer we are caught up and with God. When we meet in His houses of worship, we again are caught in his presence. Our contempary ideas of rapture do not represent the historical ideas of rapture, but the feelings of rapture we all experience in His presence are real and present always. For me I was raptured last evening, and will be again this morning as I attend our Meeting for Worship.
For most of my child and young adult life I lived as a Kansas farmboy. My life had a rythem, a chorus or melody of biological processes. The seasons had meaning they marked our time. Our calander didn’t necissarily follow days of the month; but temperature, the length of day, and rain. For a farmboy the ideas of nature, enviroment, and the cycle of life are more than just a catchy trend but a lifestyle. There isn’t a farmer out there that doesn’t want to preserve the enviroment because this planet provides their livelyhood. It must be protected or they would lose their jobs. To be honest we kindof get offended by people who say we don’t care or that we poision the earth because this is far from the truth.
Agriculture has many forms. Each form evolved in its own way to meet the conditions facing the area. The tools used, the crops grown, or rejected all have a reason. In Europe they didn’t need the tools required in the frontier lands of the Great Plains. The steel plow is a symbol of technology and the amazing ability God created in us to adapt to our envioment. Prior to the settling of this area steel was only needed on the tip of the wooden versions of the plow. There are other forms of agriculture that emerged as well. All around what is now Kansas City, praire grass covered the hills. Grass so thick and rich cattle flurished. This provided the first great economy for Kansas City, the beef industry. This industry is so entrenched in our history that cuts of meat bear our name. Agriculture both cultivation and animal husbandry founded our community and the growth of both drove our city to be what it is.
I bring this up because Israel or Palistine, was an culture developed around agriculture. In the north and coastal regions they cultivated the ground raising vinyards, olive groves, and raising wheat and other crops. While the hill of Judea the enviroment demanded other forms. In the arid hills with sparce vegitation and rain cultivation was not possible so they focused on the raising of animals. Often you can tell where Jesus is teaching by the agricultural illistrations he provides. Jerusalem is in the hill country so the image of a stockyard is great.
Since the area is arid, water becomes very important. Communities grow around the availability of water. Often these communities would build pens to house the flocks of sheep so various shepards. I imagine Jesus is teaching near one of these pens in the story told in John 10:1-10.
The sheep pens are areas where several flock of sheep are housed to keep the sheep protected from preditors so the shepards can rest. The gate is manned by a keeper whose job is simple keep sheep in and preditors out. Imagine watch this keeper opening an closing the gate as Jesus is teaching.
Jesus is the gate keeper. Jesus Christ is the only way to enter into rest with and a personal relationship with God. This is probably the most inflamatory message in religious culture and rightfully so since it has always been. Jesus Himself said it an if Jesus is who He claims then this statment must be considered. Everyone standing there listening to Jesus is seeing in the background the gatekeeper opening the gate. Allowing or disallowing a shepard and his sheep to find rest. Jesus says that He is the gate and those listening realize what Jesus is saying. He is the one who controls who or who isn’t allowed to find spiritual rest with God. Christians may find this statement comforting, those opposed to the Christian ideas find this statement exclusive and judgemental. What we need to realize is Christ is the gate and the gate keeper not us. His standard is the one followed not ours.
As a shepard leads his sheep into a pen they employ their tools. Their rod is held above the gate and as the sheep walk under it the wool is brushed away to show their skin. This allows the shepard to inspect the sheep for injuries. Those without blemish are allowed to enter rest and the other are given special care. Our Meetings are like the sheep pens. This is why in ancient times the church wa often refered to as a hospital, because the Standard or rod of Christ was applied and the wounds were revieled and cared for. We are the fold for the injured and hurting to find healing as well as the fold for the healthy and tired to find rest. But we are not the gate, Christ is the gate. Often we as the church or Meeting forget our place.
My place as a pastor is not to judge who is or isn’t worthy of membership or who is equipt to be a leader. My job I to point to the Shepard and to pass through the gate with others. Your job as members is not to deem ministry good or bad; or right or wrong. Your job is to help those called by the Shepard through the gate and to walk back with them when they come for rest. He is the gate and th standard. The scriptures are there to provide a witness to all people so we all can know His voice. We are not the gatekeepers we shouldn’t turn people away because it isn’t our job. They come because they seek rest and healing from the shepard. The Spirt of God will do the rest. We do however have a job to do.
Sheep are unfortunatly the most helpless animals on earth. They have been so demesticated that they can no longer survive on their own. They require help. Sheep follow and get lost. Actually the get lost more often than they follow. Tha is why dogs were bred to assist the shepard. The flocks hear the shepard and they respond. In the morning the shepard calls out the flocks and they leave the pen to go out into the world. We are like the sheep being called out. Our job is to follow. But even outside of the pens we have nothing at stake. The Shepard stil does all the work. Our job is to listen, hear, and follow.
Sometimes there are leaders in a flock that gather a group in a certain area, these leaders are known by the shepard and are called and the congrigation moves back around the shepard. These group are the various ministries we are called to. They revolve around our passions or the areas of our lives that bring enjoyment or purpose. Where we go with these passions others will be also. And as Christ calls to us we can bring others back to the Shepard.
My passions are different from others in our Meeting. My personal ministry looks different than yours, but mine is no greater than anyone elses. My job, my passion is to help others learn to hear Christ better. Which is funny since I’m deaf. Others have passions involving movies or dancing. Their ministries are just as vital as mine, because their ministry meets others as well as mine. And asour ministries overlap the group grows around the Shepard.
I recently watch “the king’s speech“, which is a movie about the late King Goerge VI. He had a passion for his nation. A passion his brother did not share. Although George wasn’t the oldest he became king because his brother refused. But George had a weakness, a stammer. He was called to be king but he was not able to speak so he felt unable to lead. God provided a mn to come along side to help the king speak. This is a great picture of our ministries. My ministry is to help people hear, others are different but where our ministries and passions cross other ministries emerge. A stammering king inspired a nation because he met a man who helped him speak.
We live in a dark world with people lost wondering the hills of the wilderness away from their shepard, unable to hear His voice. We live in an exciting time because we live in a culture driven by passionate people and God can use these passions to call His people to Him. This week I pray with yu that we can discss our hopes and passions. And that together we can pray and hear the Voice of our Shepard who is calling us and others to this place of healing and rest.