“I don’t ever want to convey that our primary job as pastors is to fix a problem. Our primary work is to make saints.”
— Eugene H. Peterson
Expectations are something we all have of each other, when we are in relationship, whether we are aware of them or not; whether they are realistic or agreed or not.
In their role within the community of believers, pastors, perhaps more than anyone else, have a role in a believer’s expectations. Some of these expectations, indeed probably many, are unrealistic and incorrectly oriented. Although at times a pastor is a coach, a counsellor, a mentor, a preacher, or even a friend, it isn’t their primary role. Rather than fixing problems, the pastor is positioned best to illuminate God’s Word and will, and affirm God’s character within the context of their parishioners’ struggle.
Pastor is a unique role. And this is what parishioner can expect: a unique relationship, whereby their pastor can get to know them better, dignify them in their presence, listen and understand. Grace is the medium within the pastor and between the pastor and the parishioner, as grace is groomed within this believer who sits with their pastor – as equals, as much as the believer will allow. Making saints is about modeling grace; the redemptive quality of love and acceptance.
Pastors are models of the spiritual life oriented correctly, though not perfectly. If their business is making saints – disciples of Jesus – their lives are to be in accord with that very mandate. The pastor knows Jesus, and leads the believer toward intimacy with God. But they have no special mortgage on the Lord. And the pastor is definitely not exclusivist. They don’t play sides. They try to love all people the best they can, albeit imperfectly.
When a person comes to see a pastor they should expect openness, warmth, empathy, genuineness and authenticity. Above all a pastor protects dignity. They are safe to be with, and confidences are kept.
There is also the fair expectation that the pastor will honour with reverence the position of power they have been called into by God. This means the pastor, whilst he or she is a sinner with the need is saving, strives to be and ensures they are beyond reproach. Pastors are to exemplify power’s reversal, which is inherently redemptive; they are to be masters of the apology – but not for overt people-pleasing.
Expectations Too Great
It is too much for a believer to expect a pastor to fix their problems.
Such an expectation runs foul of the truth. No one can fix another person’s problems. Indeed, most of the time we cannot even ‘fix’ our own problems – many of which we must simply bear patiently. And that’s the process of becoming saintly: bearing things patiently.
With a unique helping position, anointed by God to be a servant leader, a pastor cannot be expected to fill other helping professions’ roles, though, depending on the individual pastor’s giftedness, they may fill the breach from time to time.
Pastors are positioned best to illuminate God’s Word and will, and affirm God’s character within the context of their parishioners’ struggles.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.