I am wrapping up my Pastor as…. series. Pastor as Theologian may be the most controversial out of all four.
Why you need to be a theologian is because you as a shepherd, leader, and disciple need to think right thoughts about God. A. W. Tozer famously said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” It is important for us as Pastors and especially those of us who teach children and students that we not only think thoughts of God but that we think rightly about who God is.
I would argue that what you believe about God affects who you follow, how you lead and how you love. For many years I avoided hard conversations about theology because I was “only a kids pastor.” What I didn’t realize is what I thought about God rightly or wrongly affected how I lead and the curriculum I chose and the lessons I wrote. As a pastor to kids, you can feel more like a daycare provider, event coordinator, middle manager, after school program director than a pastor. Those practical aspects are very real and very time consuming but the underlying reality if you are called to lead those who teach kids no matter what your church calls you be it pastor, leader or director you must think right thoughts about God.
In calling Children’s and Youth workers to be Pastor/Theologians I am not saying that you have to sequester yourself and devote yourself to parsing of Trinitarian theology but you should be asking if our lessons and our messages are Trinitarian. Do we preach in such a way that our kids are familiar with the role and the work of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit? This is not the job of the curriculum companies although resources to help pastors think through lessons theologically would be much appreciated. The job of creating a firm theological foundation is the job of the pastor.
There is no more fundamental description of what the role of a pastor should be than the role of a shepherd. There was a season of life where I was only reading leadership books. They have great advice and fantastic insight they can help you be a better leader which we should all strive to be. The fundamental flaw in being a pastor who strives to be a CEO versus a pastor as a shepherd is the focus of what you do and the motivations behind what you do.
A CEO is driven by the need for efficiency and measurable outcomes. They make the mistake of being efficient with people so you can be effective in ministry. This is where we make our fatal flaw as ministers we think that we are judged by some elusive bottom line, and in the frenetic pace of ministry we kill ourselves trying to make it across some finish line we have set up for ourselves, but we never end up crossing. We burn up and burn out because we become disillusioned with the pace and the culture of pastoral ministry.
You Are an Undershepherd, Not an Owner.
We live in a very entrepreneurial culture. If you build it, they will come. The dream you have can be realized, you can be a self-made man. While all these things are true to a point as a pastor, you will never be satisfied with your work if these are the ideas you have about pastoral ministry. As a pastor, you are more of an undershepherd than even a Shepherd. We are stewards, not owners. A steward recognizes that he doesn’t set his goals or achieve his outcomes. A steward’s job description is to take care of and grow his flock for the person whom he works. When we are the owner we tend to obsess over outcomes rather than the hard work of planting, loving and trusting. When we see ourselves as the owner we are shaken when things happen that we can’t understand. As a CEO we don’t think anything as above our paygrade, as an undershepherd, we have a greater capacity for mystery because in ministry there are many things that don’t make sense.
Much has been written on this subject and for good reason, because the church needs not just good men it needs good men who will lead people to Christ. Leading people to Christ inherently requires leadership. The Christian life is not one of separation and study alone. It is one of interaction and guidance. A pastor is not a monk he is a follower who leads other followers. He is flawed for sure but he must not let his flaws disqualify him from leading but must lead in such a way that he points beyond himself to Christ.
How many people follow you doesn’t make you a leader THAT someone is following you does. If you are a pastor you are a leader. You have a responsibility to lead well and to lead people to a closer walk with Christ.
This year was a change for me I started graduate school a little over a year ago, and the books I want to read are now waiting for me because of books I have to read are taking precedence. I have learned a couple of things about reading this year.
1.Reading books above what you typically read or are comfortable reading push you to read more efficiently and read more widely. There are books I would never have read this year if it were not for that.
If 19 years in ministry has taught me, anything it has taught me that leading is difficult. There are times where you are on top of the world and other times where you feel the world is collapsing around you. The challenge is not to give in the going gets hard and to not blow up when things are going your way.
In life and ministry success is an amazing by-product but a terrible goal and an even worse master. The challenge for each of us especially those in ministry is to measure our lives by the right yardstick. It is very easy to get sucked into the more is better; leadership fixes everything trap. The modern leadership movement has done much to help pastors and churches, but we must also be aware of the damage it has done and continues to do. There has slipped in this idea of a post-modern, secular identity that we can rise from obscurity to be the church everyone in the nation is talking about. If we allow success to be our goal, business strategies to be our mantra and CEO’s to be our heroes we will be swallowed up by the success we think will earn God’s favor and man’s respect. Tim Keller in his book Making Sense of God says the secular identity brings a crushing burden with it.