A pastor acquaintance recently emailed me asking to joining a group called, “Dead Pastor’s Society” (Think, Dead Poet’s Society).
I am looking forward to meeting with this group. The other pastors are all much more experienced than myself and are serving in churches different than mine own and I am looking forward to the community that will accompany our meetings. I crave it.
BUT, in the email, this pastor wrote something that has really had me thinking for some time now.
At the risk of horribly misquoting him, here is the gist of his words,
“God reveals His will for churches to the pastor, as the pastor preaches and lives out this call and vision, it disperses to the people of the CHurch and is enacted.” Consequently, we, as Pastors need to be disciplined and faithful in seeking God’s will for our lives and our congregations and need community to help discern and be held accountable to God’s will.
This brought to mind the issue of pastoral theology. What do I believe the role of pastor to be? What authority does the pastor have in or over the church and what authority does the church have in or over the pastor?
I’ll admit, my own pastoral theology has been challenged by this and I have found out it is not as thorough and thought out as I previously assumed.
This pastor’s theology seems more like a top-down system. The Pastor is the spiritual head of the church, God’s will for the church is dispersed through the Pastor as is accepted theology, scripture interpretation, and church polity. This puts the Pastor in a fearfully powerful position. In faithful, humble hands, a church could certainly thrive under such pastoral theology.
My own practical (as in, “in practice”) and yet in-process (as in “still forming”) pastoral theology is more organic, or bottom-up. I believe, this model of pastoring is traditionally Baptistic. We are all capable (is this the right word, perhaps “equipped by the Holy Spirit”) to receive a word from the Lord. Perhaps it is my fear, my youth, and my inexperience, but I believe GOd’s will for the church evolves from the hearts of God’s people, not just God’s person.
Certainly, the pastor plays an integral role in this process. The pastor leads, the pastor preaches, the pastor casts a vision, the pastor prays, discerns, and is specifically trained, called, gifted, and equipped to lead God’s people. But can we biblically, reasonably, and confidently say that we, as Pastors, are the sole proprietors of God’s will for our congregations?
Perhaps I am fearful to wear that mantle. Perhaps I simply disagree with the theology. Perhaps there is no black and white answer to the question.
It seems to me that most church splits, infighting, and forced resignations are products of misunderstandings and miscommunications between pastors and churches and within churches on this very question. What exactly is our pastoral theology? What authority does the Pastor have? It is a question we all might well think, read, and pray deeply over.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Especially if you have some good sources to help discern and educate on this question.