It’s time to reframe our idea of what it means to be a pastor
I am not a trained minister, an educated member of the clergy, or a professional pastor. These titles all unnerve me. I am not a pastor, at least not in the traditional sense.
About a decade ago a woman left me completely flustered when, full of sincerity, she asked, “Are you a pastor?”
I gasped and then suppressed a laugh. “Oh, no!” I assured her. “I am definitely not a pastor.”
She cocked her head and eyed me quizzically. “Well you certainly seem like one.”
My initial thought was offense. Despite having many pastors who are friends, I apparently didn’t hold the profession in high regard. However, I suspect her words were given as a compliment, even though they freaked me out. Later I shook my head in disbelief and in a vain attempt to dislodge the memory from my mind.
But this wasn’t the only time someone asked me this question, merely the first. The second time, despite being caught off guard again, I believe I responded a bit more graciously. This surprising question has been repeated over the years that followed and again resurfaced this past week..
I hope people ask this because they sense something positive in me, such as a caring spirit, a gentleness that transcends self, or the love of Jesus oozing out. If so, the question “Are you a pastor?” is a tribute to God’s work in my life, even though my answer remains an emphatic, “No.”
Many people consider a pastor as synonymous with minister or preacher. I do not. I prefer to think of a pastor as a shepherd, as one who follows the example of the Great Shepherd. The pastor as shepherd is one who cares for his or her flock. Simply put, a pastor cares for others. This care comes through both prayer and through action.
In this respect, we are all called to be pastors, or as Peter writes, we are priests (1 Peter 2:5). As followers of Jesus we are tasked with caring for one another. I care for you and you care for me. We should not wait for the paid clergy to do this. We should act before they get a chance. This makes us pastors.
Yes, I am a pastor – and so are you.
When was someone a pastor to you? How can you be a pastor to others? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
[This is from Peter DeHaan‘s April newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.” Receive the complete newsletter each month.]