I've been thinking a lot lately about being a pastor. Part of it relates to the fact that I'm almost one year into my first job as a pastor, and as with most anniversaries in life, reflection accompanies this time. Plus, this week my reading all of the sudden had all sorts of references to church and pastoring. Add to that my article on leadership I just had published, and it's not surprising my pastoral identity has been on my mind.
Now, perhaps more so than other professions, my experience this week reveals how being a pastor involves a considerable amount of self-reflection. When I was roofer, I don't remember much reflection on my career identity (maybe there should have been!). But for some reason the role of a pastor is always up for discussion. A roof is a roof. But the church, well, it's a little less predictable. At times this can be disconcerting, as I question in my article:
How will I handle success, particularly in a denomination that stresses covenant community and the priesthood of all believers? Can I let go of my ego long enough to realize leadership isn’t about me? Hearing stories of frustration and disappointment from experienced leaders, I wonder, when is it my turn? These are just a few questions that make embarking on the journey of church leadership a daunting prospect.
Overall, however, I actually find the constant reflection on my profession to be a highlight of my job. The current trend towards creatively exploring what the church will look like and how it will function in our culture gives me space to experiment and not feel tied-down in a specific mode of being a pastor.
I thought I'd share a few quotes from my reading this week to illustrate what I mean:
God has chosen to shape us into the likeness of Jesus Christ through the workings of the Spirit in ordinary communities of faith...The church, spoken of eloquently by St. Paul as 'the Body of Christ,' is none other than the living, grumbling, combed-over, rouged-up gaggle of sinner that we ling among. Saints have day jobs. And the church not hover eight feet off the ground. The 'People of God,' whose names are carved upon the heart of the heavenly high priest, spit on the sidewalk and disappoint one another and forgive each other for real and imagined wrongs. And it is through all of this life together that we are becoming who we already are in Christ...Pastoral ministry is most truly theological work when it is engaged in the ordinary pursuits of life (Michael Jinkins, "Ministry and Clouds of Witnesses," in From Midterms to Ministry).
And from a Donald Miller blog post, "Could Your Church Survive if There Were no Sermons?", we see the type of idea that gets me excited about the possibilities for church leadership - creatively engaging the church's identity and mission in the world:
You could send out a mass e-mail saying that the actual building of the church will be completely closed for one month, but that the church must go on, and let the church itself (not the staff) figure out how. The staff could be on call 24/7 to serve the church in any way it needed in order to keep going. At the end of a month, you could have a huge dinner and allow people to share their experiences and see what the church had collectively learned, and whether people felt lost or empowered.
Try that one!
All this to say, I look forward to continuing my reflection on pastoring. With the diversity of experiences I've already had in this first year, such an ongoing reflection and adaptability will no doubt be essential to my well-being (sanity!) as a pastor.