there are a lot of ways to pastor

kathyescobar church stuff, incarnational, leadership 31 Comments

there are a lot of ways to pastor “in his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. so if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.  if your gift is serving others, serve them well. if you are a teacher, teach well.  if your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. if it is giving, give generously. if God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. and if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” – romans 12:6-8

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the word “pastor” is such a loaded word. not quite as loaded as “church” but with some of the same baggage. we assume that pastors have a certain kind of education & training & credentials that make them able to do the work that they are doing.  pastor has become a title, a role, a job description; the implication of it is that it is a role that is definitely connected to a church system.

we need to re-think the word pastor. i won’t rehash all of the thoughts from that old post, but it’s been on my mind in this past season as i hear from awesome & wonderful people who have huge hearts for people & God & are “pastors” in their contexts.  often, their gifts aren’t valued because they don’t have the credentials or titles to go with it.  they don’t make any money.  they don’t have any formal training. they don’t have anyone to empower them formally.

but they are pastors–shepherds, caregivers, lovers-of-people.  they are the ones that people go to when they are hurting.  they show up when no one else shows up. they listen.  and check in.  cheerlead.  pray.  feed.  care.  laugh.  cry.  grieve.  they are the loving presence of Christ in the midst of every day life.

others are strangely drawn to them.

my guess is that in every neighborhood there’s a pastor.

in every office.

in every school.

in every family.

in every organization.

in every group.

people who others go to for spiritual love & support & care in the midst of their real lives.

being a good pastor is of great value, and skills like knowing the difference between caretaking and caregiving, and so many other things necessary to the work should be appreciated.

i have a feeling a lot of you are pastors but have never had that title next to your name.

i also know a lot of you are pastors, with the title and role, and do all kinds of beautiful things to love & care & shepherd & guide the people in your communities.  i do not for a minute want to minimize the hard work you are doing.  i, too, have the title & role & some of the benefits that come from this position.  i am grateful for this season in my life, and it is a privilege to be able to have my vocation & passion merge this way.

but i really want to honor all the amazing pastors out there who will never be in these specific church ministry positions.  who will never go to seminary. who will never have the title.  who may never preach from the front.  who may always think of themselves “less than” typical pastors because the title has not been bestowed up on them properly.

here’s what i want to say to those of you in this boat:

you are a pastor.

God gave you this gift.

your love & heart & compassion & care & presence matters.

you do not need to be ordained by a system to be ordained by God to live out the gift that you have.

you do not need to go to seminary to somehow to be made legit.

you do not need someone “above” you to tell you how to use it.

you do not need to dismiss the fire in your belly & the love in your heart because you don’t have what the church associates with the role.

just keep doing what you do naturally.

be a safe person for others. 

create little pockets of love without asking for permission.

go to people.

gather people.

love people.

the world needs you.

the world isn’t crying out for more theologians, seminarians, or the next-newest-and-greatest-church plant (although the “machine of church” might be).

no, the world is crying out for more “pastors”, people who will bravely and freely extend Christ’s love, hope, care, mercy & justice in a broken & hurting world. 

keep remembering–there are a lot of ways to pastor.