Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Call and Vocation of Pastoring

I ran across an article by Gordon MacDonald earlier today which contained this paragraph: 
Urgency (I think we prefer the word passion today) is an interesting word when it comes to the consideration of soul-deep preaching. It is used to describe a preacher who really believes that the eternal destiny of human beings is caught up in the issues a sermon might address. This is a scary thought. Truth be told? I don't get the feeling that most preachers really believe that eternal issues are in the balance when they preach.
This kind of sentiment causes me to reflect again on the import of preaching and the profession of the pastor; it reminds me that pastoring is not a job.  Jobs do not always require that the employee be intimately and emotionally involved with their work.  Employees certainly can be, but they need not be.  Jobs certainly do not always require the spiritual attentions of their employees.  People may be spiritually wrapped up in their job, but we might consider them odd or some kind of workaholic. 
In contrast, pastoring involves spiritual intimacy and emotional connection.  It would be wrong for a pastor to be spiritually disconnected from their work, and it would be devastating to their parishioners if they were not emotionally involved with the congregation.
In response to MacDonald’s words, I wonder if there is a vicious cycle between pastors who are not spiritually in tune with their calling and vocation and congregants who don’t expect their shepherds to be spiritual “experts.”  Take for instance the careers of lawyers and doctors.  Our culture requires years of training and certification of them before we allow them to ply their trade.  And then when we have a legal or medical need we can enter their offices and be reassured that they are expertly trained and able to deal with our particular need.  What do people expect when they enter a pastor’s office and see the degree on the wall?  And further, what are the credentialed able to give in return? 
I argue that we are in a cultural situation (maybe even encouraged by pop Christianity) in which laypeople don’t always know to expect spiritual direction from a pastor as opposed to something like psychotherapy, and pastors don’t know that they should be the “experts” in things spiritual. 

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