Entering my 7th year on mission in the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador, there are still folks who insist on calling me “Pastor.” I have never liked that title applied to me. In fact, I am amazed that it is a coveted title. Not amazed really, because here, it’s one of very few spiritually paid positions. Christians love titles. It actually makes me giggle when I hear people referring to themselves as “Bishop” so & so or “The Apostle” thus & such. But, that’s their issue, not mine.
I’ve taken many of those Ephesians 4 Spiritual Gift assessment tests and they always come out the same. My giftings, in order, are: Prophet, Teacher, Apostle, Evangelist, and Pastor. Yes, Pastor is last… It’s further complicated when some gets adamant about cementing by hyphen the “Pastor-Teacher” gifting.
The assumption, although I don’t know why, is that missionaries are automatically Pastors. Early on, I was convinced that I must force myself to fit in that role because it just made sense. When folks called me Pastor in the first couple of years on the mission field, I accepted it, but it always sounded “out of tune,” and a bit creepy. I thought that it was just my rebellious nature that refused to submit to all the pastoral preconceptions. I tried to be a Pastor, but it always felt like I was caught in an undertow and being drawn away from where and what God wanted me to be.
Someone even told me that I needed to start a church and “pastor” it. It never happened. I am a missionary. I am not a pastor. When she said that, she meant that I should be the head of a local church or regular gathering of local believers. There are times when I need to be pastoral, and I’ll admit I still struggle with it, but more often than not, I am quite comfortable operating in the prophetic. Now, before you get your shorts in a bunch, it doesn’t mean I go around predicting the future all the time. But it does mean that God puts thoughts and questions in my head and heart which I am compelled to communicate to others. I’ll develop that further in another post.
A friend recently asked me if I’d like to be in on the ground floor of starting a new seminary. I love the idea and will work towards that end as the Lord leads. In looking at and developing curriculum for this seminary, one said that we need to “teach Pastoral Theology.” That creepy feeling hit me again. If teaching Pastoral Theology means teaching people how to be pastors in the most commonly accepted church sense, then I’ll have to bow out of that segment. Earlier today on twitter, I said:
“In 2013, let’s take a break from “Pastoral Theology” & reconsider, theologically speaking, what it means to be pastoral.”
I think there is a huge difference between being pastoral and being a pastor. Truth is, my wife is way more pastoral than I am. I’m OK with that in this wonderfully upside-down Kingdom. But she, even with her enhanced super-human pastoral powers would not want to “pastor” a church. Together, we make a great ministry team of missionaries. When folks call me “Pastor” now, I just say, “I’m not a Pastor, I’m simply one who has been sent.” I think it creeps them out a bit. So, in that light, I’d like to ask a few questions:
Is it a good idea to assume that missionaries be pastors? Why or why not?
Is there a justifiable and biblical difference between being pastoral and being a Pastor?
Should we draw any conclusion from the fact that “Pastor” is only mentioned once in scripture?
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*The image in this post is taken from one of David Hayward’s (AKA NakedPastor) works which you can see here.