I believe that a pastor’s main duty is making sure the mission of the local church is carried out, which is primarily guiding spiritually-estranged people through the process of spiritual formation.
Pastors are shepherds: leading sheep to good pastures, protecting them from wolves, and finding the lost ones and carrying them back to the fold.
So here are my Top 5 Things Pastors Should Stop Pretending to Be:
1. A Bible Scholar Face it: we’re not. Anytime I hear a pastor or internet preacher say, “A better translation in the Hebrew would be…” or “The Greek verb really means…”, I get nervous. I’ve done my own fair share of hacking Hebrew and Greek based solely on a commentary, concordance, century-old Edersheim material and “Follow The Rabbi”-type websites…and it ain’t pretty. And had people who are intensely schooled in dead languages and Koine Greek call me out. As they should. While pastors must and should study the Bible, it’s not a full-time vocation for us. We don’t really have the luxury of spending most of our waking hours studying texts because, remember?—we’re pastors. So let’s stop pretending to be Bible scholars. We can read their work, we can quote them, we should know a few, but we’re not them because we can’t hole up in libraries for days—we have to be with our people in order to lead them. 2. A Theologian The Cliff Notes version is this: Bible scholars study text, theologians study what different voices believe about the text. Trees versus forest. But it requires inordinate amounts of time to recognize the nuances and roots of various theological themes. Not for the faint-hearted. Yes, I know the old maxim: “Everyone is a theologian.” But not necessarily a good one.
Anyway, my argument is the same as #1. 3. A Professional Counselor I believe in Christian counseling and therapists with all my heart. I’ve been to some. But it’s a black hole for pastors to do. And here’s why: it will suck the leadership and pastoral life out of you. For one, most pastors don’t have enough clinical counseling training and, second, most suffer from messianic complexes—we think if we try hard enough we can fix anything. But people are complex cocktails of spiritual, emotional, relational, neurological and chemical challenges. And I can guarantee the psyche-vampires will find you out and want to meet with you. Endlessly. And drain the pastoral blood out of you. Sure, we can do generalized Biblical counseling; we can even cast out a few demons. But take it from me: beyond one or two introductory meetings, you’re probably in over your head. If you really enjoy counseling people—and many pastors do—just make sure you get continuing education and training, network with professional counselors in your area, and realize that your leadership of the church and corporate missional thrust will take a backseat. 4. The Smartest Person in the Room This is more internal with respect to staff/volunteer/leaders meetings. If you’re the lead pastor, people will naturally turn to you when a decision needs to be made or when a counterpoint view requires expression. That’s your job. But just because you have the position and are potentially the decider, it doesn’t make you the sharpest crayon in the box. What pastors can be is this: good generalists. You can and should know a little bit about most things (such as these five roles), but you’re not the expert of any one of them. 5. A Prophet I don’t mean that you shouldn’t be prophetic. And I mean the whole range of the prophetic: from proclamations about direction…to encouragement…to exposing overlooked justice issues. It’s just that typically prophets don’t make great pastors. They can have an edge that counteracts invitation. A church led by a prophet will typically end up being a small group of spiritual Rambos or co-dependents. And those who lean into a prophetic-stance can be susceptible to becoming authoritative and controlling. Prophesy, but circumspectly and humbly. And be on guard for spiritual abuse; we can easily fall prey to it. That’s it, pastors. Now go do your real job. And for those of you who aren't pastors but lead in some capacity, what is it that you need to stop pretending to be? Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES By the way, yes, we do one-on-one mentoring and coaching at Elemental Churches. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit here.