Pastors today have the challenge of fulfilling an impossible task.
The demands placed on the pastor are simply too diverse to meet. Traditionally the role of pastor has been one of “caretaker” of the people. In fact many answered the call to full-time ministry from a place of compassion and caring for the people. It was the desire to comfort, counsel, and to care for people that in many ways that drew them into the profession of being a pastor. The title “pastor” is synonymous with caring. Part of the role of the pastor was to preach to the people that in the church.
Within the last couple of decades a change has taken place. There is now a distinct difference between being a pastor and being a preacher. A preacher is one who has the ability to communicate God’s Word to groups of people in an effective way. A great preacher is a great communicator. A great preacher holds people’s attention and inspires them to action.
With this growing difference between a pastor and a preacher, we have discovered that many of those who fill our pulpits are either one or the other. The very gift-mix that makes someone dynamic from the pulpit, does not lend itself well to being compassionate and caring on a personal level. For many years churches were willing to put up with a mediocre communicator because they appreciated being cared for. That has changed. Through technology, our church members are constantly surrounded by dynamic communicators. They now expect the same from their pastor.
The third part of this monster is the role of leader. Many small churches are now closing their doors, and it is only the growing churches that will survive. It is vitally important that these churches have a solid leader. If we are limited in the number of people who can be both an effective pastor and preacher, we are almost nonexistent when it comes to the pastor, preacher, and leader combination.
Unfortunately, we have too many people trying to be all three, and doing more harm than good for the local congregations in the process.
The correct challenge for pastors is not trying to have all three heads, but to determine which head you already have. Once you make that determination, embrace it and excel at it. If you are a preacher then preach, but don’t try to pretend to be an effective pastor and leader. Preach well, but also surround yourself with people that can take care of your congregation. Preach with passion, but also empower other people to lead.
If you are a great pastor, get out of the pulpit and let someone else be the dynamic communicator. Let them use the gifts that God has given them to bring His Word to His people. Find a leader who can set the direction and rally the people to a great vision and future.
If you’re a great leader, you may be OK in the pulpit, but you’re probably a lousy pastor. You need to quickly find someone who can be compassionate and caring for the people you’re leading.
Answering God’s call to ministry is fairly simple – the challenge is not letting the “systems” of the past determine how you answer that call.