Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spiritual gifts part 8: Pastoring, It's Not Just For the Man Up Front

Hey gang!

When I say the word pastor to you, you instantly visualize a man standing at the front of the congregation speaking the word of God using witty examples to help us understand what they are saying. There are some though that believe that pastoring only happens on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and midweek services (for those of you that have them). I actually heard a man joke once (at least I hope he was joking) that pastors have the easiest schedule working only one or two days a week. The guy even added that he saw his pastor golfing more than he was teaching.

The average pastor probably wishes it was that easy. Here are just a beginning list of duties I’ve heard the average pastor has.
1, He goes to the hospitals to attend the sick. If you have ever been ill, some pastors even come to your home to pray for you to get better.
2. He goes to homes to counsel. If you have lost your way or began to have severe differences with your spouse, pastors come to visit to try to help. If you have children that are equally lost, you probably see your pastor more.
3. Unelected head of meetings. If there are only a few or no elders, pastors have to head up every meeting imaginable.
4. Business visits. The mayor may get to cut the ribbon, but many companies ask pastors to come and pray for their success.
5. Community meetings. Since pastors are usually trustworthy and are well known by the public, they usually are asked to be on committees to make the community a better place. Some are even elected to office.
6. Head accountant. When the church lacks a good financial person, the pastor has to keep the money straight.
7. Janitor. I hear this one a lot. First to arrive, last to leave the church. Even the pastor has to leave it like he found it.
8. Key person to open the building. If something happens at church, many times the pastor has to open the door.
9. Taste tester. Pastors don’t usually mind this one, unless they are trying to lose weight. The ladies of the church don’t feel like they’ve done their job unless they fatten up a pastor or two.
10. Groundskeeper. This isn’t where the pastor is his sexiest. He shows his manly side by tearing up debris and mowing the church lawn. I’ve seen many a pastor succumb to sweats and a “Kiss the chef” hand-me-down T-shirt.

So you can see that one man cannot possibly have all these giftings. That’s why he needs many people like you. I know something else that might surprise you as well. Not all pastors are gifted to pastor. Under the current college programs, if you get the degree, welcome to the license to practice. I’m not looking to get anyone fired when we talk about pastor as a spiritual gift, but it might be one that either you possess as well or your pastor may not ultimately possess. Let’s look at what God tells us about the spiritual gift of pastor.

The spiritual gift definition of pastoring is the unique, God-given ability to nurture, protect, and to help bring to maturity, a group of Christians. That’s a pretty large definition. Nurturing is usually a gift found in mothers. They have babies and then tend to them in every way to help them grow. Protecting is job usually done by the male species. Think of any father that has a teenage daughter and is meeting their young suitor for the first time. You may hear the jokes of guns in the cabinet that can be used if this suitor hurts his little girl in any way. Finally, to help bring to maturity. If you’ve ever been a parent, even once a child has left the nest of your home, you may still have feelings that the job is never complete. You’re probably right. Honestly, as long as we’re here on this earth, we are going to learn something new to mature us further every day. If you’re not, it may be time for some self-examination. I’ll leave that between you an God for today.

In the Greek, “poimen” is the word used in Ephesians, meaning “to shepherd.” Bryan Carraway even tells us in his book, Spiritual Gifts, Their Purpose and Power, that the terms “pastor” or “pastoring” come from our culture’s idea of seminary-trained professional ministers. Carraway is quick to point out that many people that are sitting in the pews that have no intention of attending seminary do indeed possess this gift. He even talks about many churches that block women from the role of pastor. Some women do possess the gift of pastoring and need spiritual outlets to demonstrate this gift.

The signs of possessing this gift include first being usually a well-developed emotionally stable person. You’ve heard the phrase, “You don’t have to be crazy to do this job, but it helps” doesn’t apply to pastoring. They give and receive love easily. They are relational people, so they usually work better cooperatively with an administrative type. My own pastor admits that he is so grateful for our executive pastor because he doesn’t have to think as often about the tasks of finances and such and can focus on people and their needs.

Carraway talks about the apostle Paul having this gift. He shares Paul’s words from 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul shares with the church to reaffirm a fallen brother because he was concerned for the man being overwhelmed with sorrow if he weren’t forgiven and reaccepted to the family of the church.

Secondly, those with the pastoring gift are always protective of those he shepherds from things that could endanger them spiritually. They want Christians to grasp concepts that will help them mature and also protect them from the trappings of the world and Satan. Finally, pastors are natural teachers or life coaches. They want the people of God to be blessed and make their marks in serving others in the faith.

In our own church, we have a program called Growing In God study groups, or GIG groups, for short. Leaders of these groups get to use their pastoring gift to nurture their friends in groups of 10-14 people and makes the work of the church staff that much easier. It’s not the pastorate trying to find others to take care of people and never be involved with them, but walking with people using their pastoral gift frees time for them to deal with others that aren’t involved. The people in these groups then tend to help each other and formulate smaller families inside the church. This isn’t making cliques, but people that can relate and care for one another. One of the goals of GIG is to raise up others in confidence to lead their own groups in time and pass the flame of the gift they have received.

In my own admission, I wish that I possessed more of this gifting. By being an internet minister, I get the opportunity to minister to many each day. Some of these people write me, friend me on Facebook and we keep in touch. But there are many that will read what I do and never say a word. As long as they are finding other ministries to help meet that relational need, I am happy though.

I have been criticized by a few for being more of a teacher than a pastor. I know this is true. I’ll talk a little more about this next time as we cover the gift of teaching.

I love you guys!
Frank

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