John Frye offers this definition of pastoring and then shares its implication:
Pastoring offers and shapes an alternative reality in Jesus the Christ so that others reconnect with God as his new people for the sake of all creation.
... What is often elevated as pastoring today, for example, good Bible teaching, is too limited, too reductionistic. Bible teaching for what? Well, how about caring for souls? Again, a very good thing to do, but it, too, must answer, Soul care for what?
All of these fine services point to something so much greater; something literally cosmic: the renewal of heaven and earth. Don't ever divorce Revelation 1-3 from 4-22. It all began with Jesus and it continues on. Pastors live in and lead, speak, and invite from an alternative reality (as Jesus did) while engulfed in a cracked reality. While not uncracked themselves, pastors nevertheless live on what the Bible calls "Shalom." Pastors breathe shalom air even in cracked lungs. They see shalom sights with cracked eyes. They hear shalom music with somewhat still dull ears. They challenge all non-shalom issues because those issues are obstacles in finding the doorway into the kingdom of God.
Isn't this more compelling than managing the corner religious shop?
In an edgier and sarcastic (?) way, stupidchurchpeople.com talks about "The Pastor Problem." I couldn't access it from their site, so here's the link from Monday Morning Insight (HT: The Dying Church).
That's the number one weakness in the modern church today. Paid pastoral leadership is the reason the church is weak, inefficient and to a point...neutered.
... Before all of my pastor friends send me hate mail, I don't think it is all your fault. I think the church culture has caused you to function as CEO's and not pastors. We need you to resign yourself as the CEO's of your church or ministry. As fast as you can run away from treating the church as a business. Leave your church meetings, your planning sessions, your growth conferences, and go and interact with far from God people where they are - outside of your church. Stop bearing the burden of whether your church offering or attendance is what it should be - you just aren't that important!
The mention of paid pastoral leadership reminds me of something I read a while back about the beginnings of Xenos Christian Fellowship in Columbus, Ohio. Their history says:
By 1980, the group had grown to more than 500 adults. During this entire period, all leadership participated on a volunteer basis. [Dennis] McCallum, [Gary] DeLashmutt and many other teachers made their livings as house painters.... Not until 1981 did Xenos hire its first paid staff, as McCallum and DeLashmutt were placed on part-time salary. By now the church had grown to nearly 800 members. During the decade in which there were no paid leaders in the church, Xenos members developed deep convictions about lay ministry. To this day, Xenos members shoulder the bulk of ministry including extensive training. Xenos leaders are convinced that without the many years of serving as soldiers at their own expense, they never would have been able to develop the same level of certainty about the equality of all members' responsibility for ministry.
On the other hand, I think one of the reasons pastors should be paid is so that they can spend time and energy and mental focus on doing the essential things like this (recounted in a sermon by John Piper):
On the morning of December 10 (about eight weeks ago) I was praying earnestly about these things and seeking the Lord for direction in my ministry. And the Lord gave me, I believe, the over-mastering conviction that I should preach on the Holy Spirit. I recorded three reasons in my journal:
"l) If I am burdened for the vital experience of God missing in many of our people and for the present power of godliness, it makes sense to preach not just on what God has done or what he will do or what we must do, but on what God is now doing and how he is now experienced—i.e., the Holy Spirit. 2) The sentence is stunning and full of ominous warning: 'If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live' (Rom. 8:13). The life of my people hangs on a vital experience of the Spirit. 3) There are miracles which God may be willing to perform if we sought his Spirit and were filled anew. And these miracles may win for him glory that is now denied him … Come, Holy Spirit, preach yourself to this people."
So for three days in the third week of January at Shalom House I spent about thirty hours praying and thinking about a series of messages on the Holy Spirit. The result is that today's message is the introduction to a series of twenty messages on the Holy Spirit that, Lord willing, I will preach between now and June 17.