Friday, August 15, 2008

Is the Pastor a Leader or a Shepherd?

Certainly no one would argue that pastors must exercise leadership within the church to which they were called. However, does the aspect of leadership define their calling?

In the book Power Surge (Augsburg-Fortess, 2000), author Michael W. Foss states: "The pastor as spiritual leader is emerging as a much more dynamic and effective pastoral role than those of pastor as caregiver, teacher, and preacher. Not the pastor as spiritual authority, but as spiritual leader, guide, or mentor..." The model Foss develops in his book betrays a similar trend I 0bserved even within the " church growth" model, which he indicates he is moving beyond. Here the pastor is supposed to be more than simply a "manager," but rather the vision-setter at the head of the organization. He contrasts the model of "chaplain" with that of the new model of pastor as "spiritual leader."

In the end it still feels too much like the old "church growth" model regurgitated. There we were told to drop the shepherd and become "ranchers," where the minister helped to organize and lead a church of little volunteer ministers. They now were to do the teaching and spiritual care giving to the grieving and hurting. They were to take over other roles such as reading the scripture and helping to lead worship. The pastor was for his part to train them, but not necessarily do do the work of ministry himself.

However, how does scripture define the pastor? It is clear even from our Lord Jesus that He was looking to call undershepherds to the flock, not corporate vision people (John 21:15ff). And Timothy is clearly instructed to "devote" himself to "the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching" (1 Timothy 4:13). The early apostles recognized that they were called specifically to bring the gifts of God to people, not simply to offer spiritual vision. "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God to wait on tables....we will give our attention to the prayer [worship] and the ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:2-4).

I am concerned how we are forever redefining the pastoral office as if what our Lord called into existence can somehow become outdated and ineffective simply because people and the times change - or because pastors themselves are bored or burned out. The "power surge" of the church is not energized disciples, as Foss indicates, but rather the living within the Word and Sacrament which is at the heart of the body of Christ and the public ministry of the church.

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