Friday, October 19, 2007

so what should a pastor be doing?

What should a pastor be doing with their time? It was a question I asked myself on Wednesday. It was evening and the church carpark was full.

Side door is one of our 5 congregations and they were at worship. They have brought a whole lot of plates and were going to throw them at the cross as a way of exploring the place of anger in Christian faith. Is that where a pastor should be?

In the foyer a block course was starting. How to read the Old Testament for all it’s worth will spend 7 weeks exploring tools to read the Bible better. Advertised across our 5 congregations, this is most likely to appeal to Sunday morning where we are doing the Old Testament minor prophets. Is that where a pastor should be?

Across the road the youth group are meeting. Most of the youth group are local community kids from unchurched families and they’re just back from a weekend camp. I have organised for them all to be getting prayer postcards from our Sunday morning congregation, who had prayed the pastoral prayer on Sunday by hand writing prayers for every person who went on camp. Is that where a pastor should be?

At a nearby home, a group are gathering to start the planning for a church camp in February 2008. Is that where a pastor should be?

Well, I’m the pastor and I’m at none of these. I’m in my office doing pre-marriage preparation with a couple. Not regular Opawa church goers, I’ve built a good relationships with the family and so have been asked to marry them. So that’s where the pastor is. Is that what a pastor should be doing? What sort of message is my absence sending to each of the other activities?

Posted by steve at 09:51 PM


  1. Maybe you are saying “I trust you!” And maybe they are saying “We trust you!” ๐Ÿ™‚

    Comment by mark — October 18, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

  2. Sorry Steve! Are you able to delete that post please? I didn’t mean to offer such shallow and typical advice. It sounds as though you just need someone who will listen. Please forgive me?

    Comment by mark — October 18, 2007 @ 10:14 pm

  3. Steve, all of these options sound like good ones, so I say you ‘should’ be at the one you want to be at. Having said that, I’ve seen firsthand the fruit of ministry to people at the critical points of hatching, matching and despatching.

    Mark, your first comment didn’t strike me as shallow.

    Comment by Cam — October 19, 2007 @ 12:57 am

  4. Mark,

    I’m happy to delete if you want, but can I say that it doesn’t sound shallow and typical.

    i wrote the post cos it was, for me, one of those moments i like to freeze and use to consider my priorities, and the impact of those priorities on others,


    Comment by steve — October 19, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

  5. Steve,

    Why do we see pastoring people in the church more important than people outside the church? Your absence is saying that all people are important and that you can only be in one place at once.

    Quoting a professor of mine, “If you can not say no to some things then your yes is meaningless.”

    And your “no” in this case is hopefully saying “You are equipped enough” to do this without me. Also as Mark said you are saying, “I trust you”.

    Jesus saw the people as sheep without a shepherd and a sense of pastors being shepherds for those inside and outside the church would seem to balance this concern (Matt 9:36). Especially as I don’t hear people complaining you were not there.

    Comment by David — October 19, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

  6. It says that “the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead lives in every believer.” God can do His work without vocational pastors. I’m not and you are not critical to getting the work done. We don’t have to, we get to be a part of this work. Might the question be, “It that where a pastor could be?”

    Comment by Will — October 20, 2007 @ 2:47 am

  7. What a greatset of options. What a great dilemma.

    In response to an earlier comment (Will), this is not about whether someone is in paid ministry or not but how a pastor (paid or unpaid but a called role and position) divides him/herself amongst the flock and encourages, shepherds, trains, comissions, admonishes, etc.

    Steve, perhaps the best option is to collect the stories; ensure that they are told amongst and outside from the church and then spend some quality time with your family with a good Australian wine!

    Comment by Andrew — October 21, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

  8. Over the past few months, instead of asking what I should be ‘doing’ I have been asking of myself more and more is, “As a minister, how am I being?”. What would happen if I stepped back and didn’t manage, didn’t organise, and didn’t run stuff? As a minister I do not feel called to run ‘the church’ but to be a ‘theologian in residence’ . To spend more time exploring prayer, more time studying scripture and providing an environment where spiritual formation can take palce. Why are we, as ministers, often defind by what we do? Or am I just being naive?

    Comment by mark — October 23, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

  9. Mark,
    I hear echoes of Eugene Peterson in your words.Am I right?

    Here’s a wondering response. I don’t want to be a pastor that says that scripture study and prayer are the domain of the paid professional. Now my carpenters can’t take time at work to read and pray. So if I do, am I in fact actually making the spiritual life more unrealistic for them? Or might I be encouraging a defacto priesthood – Steve does it for us? Neither are particularly healthy IMHO.

    So the question I am left with is what does sustainable spiritual practices mean for our community; practices’s that all of us can do/be, no matter our vocation.

    so my work as theologian is thus about forming sustainable practices, and i leave my personal prayer and study to outside 9-5, just like my chippie.

    that’s my current thinking … and as usual, as per the blog heading — always in process.


    Comment by steve — October 23, 2007 @ 3:48 pm

  10. Throwing plates at the cross? To “explore” the place of anger in Christianity? I bet Satan LOVED that.
    How sad that no one even commented on it. Deceipt is rampant in the church.
    Pastor Steve, if I were you, that is where I’d focus my attention.
    Ask the Lord to open your eyes bro.


    Comment by JD — October 23, 2007 @ 4:42 pm

  11. Thanks JD. What emotions are being expressed in Psalm 137? Or in John 2 when Jesus clears the temple? Or in Obadiah against Edom? Or Jonah in Jonah 4?

    it is a sad and distorted understanding of Christianity that cannot join these host of Biblical witnesses who had the courage to be honest with God.


    Comment by steve — October 23, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  12. Definately echos of Peterson & Merton, Barth etc etc; but mostly Peterson. I think this is where we might differ on our approaches to Ministry (which is a good thing). More and more I have become aware (for me) that prayer and study are the calling (vocation) of the minister. Week after week we interpret, understand and help others to understand the gospel and how they might live the Christian life within their context as a chipie, lawyer or retired person. I don’t thnk that study and prayer are the sole domain of pastors. However, through my study and prayer I encourage dialogue, I encourage and teach people to pray etc. I think it is easy to try and build something where as it takes faith and discipline to do “nothing” sometimes.

    I recently read this quote from Richard Rohr ย“I have been saying for years that we should drop all church programs for a year and just teach our people how to prayย” – For me as a minister in an average size congregation that lacks funds, resources and staff I find myself trying to guide our leaders to provide an environment where spiritual formation may take place – not through programs but rather through relationship and guidence. For me, in this context my role as a minister takes on a more monastic, reflective, teaching role which seems to (at the moment) suit who I am. The problem with this approach which, I can see in my mind and cannot seem to articulate clearly, is that it doesn’t provide measurable results that can be printed in a book.

    I agree that my own spiritual disciplines should not be rolled into my vocation, however, I cannot deny that even when I am reflecting and praying personally I am a minister! A chipie can pray and reflect spiritualy on the job when they get a moment. Maybe what they are doing in their vocation is an act of worship and prayer; who knows?

    Sorry for the lon post I just had to get that off my chest – I appreciate your reflections – they are challenging. And as you said ” my thoughts are “in process”!

    Comment by mark — October 23, 2007 @ 5:36 pm

  13. Steve,
    I believe Psalm 37 reflects the deep sorrow and mourning of the Jews after being taken captive by Babylon, they had lost their joy. They were not angry at God

    Jesus cleared the Temple because the people had corrupted His Father’s house, they disrespected the Laws and were in it for their own gain. Jesus was not mad at God

    Jonah was upset at God for his mercy on the people, and God dealt with Jonah for his attitude.

    David was angry at God, that would have been a better example. When Uzza was killed for touching the Ark. But later David repented of his anger, and for moving the ark not according to the Law.

    I believe we can get mad at God…but to encourage that in a congregation I don’t think pleases God. Throwing plates at the cross is just disrepectful to all that it stands for. It makes me sad to think people who claim to love Him think its ok to do.


    Comment by JD — October 24, 2007 @ 1:14 am

  14. JD,
    Appreciate you coming back. I do see anger in the verses I cited. And I see the psalms as a model of worship … all human emotions – good and bad- are expressed before God. so the act of throwing a plate is simply that – being real before God rather than hiding our feelings. now the psalms also give a pattern and a process, so that anger is expressed and then trust is affirmed. anger is not the las word.

    i wasn’t at the service (as the post said), so can’t comment on what was the last word. i can ask if you want. however, i think it needs to be noted that neither were you at the service.

    yet you do seem to be able to offer judgement. which does lead me to ask, is judging others a sin in your Bible, like anger?


    Comment by — October 25, 2007 @ 3:15 pm

  15. JD, another thought I had while I went running this morning. As a church we have been preaching our way through the minor prophets. Hosea one week, Joel the next, and so on.

    Alongside that we have also offering a reading of the prophets. We have read Hosea from chapter 1 to chapter 14, every single verse. It took over an hour.

    It is this attention to the Bible that was shaping that worship service. that is what is shaping us. And does it need to shape you, do you need to consider if you have listened to every single verse of the minor prophets, plus listened to sermons on Obadiah and Nahum, before you pass comment on our alleged “deception” as a church?

    i am not wanting to get at you, just wanting to make sure that you are reading our church life fairly.

    we might be decieved, and I continue to ask God to speak to me about your claims. But I wonder if we are taking the Bible quite seriously as a church at the moment.


    Comment by steve — October 26, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

  16. Hi Steve,
    I think it is good to be real toward God, you can’t fake Him out anyway, He knows our true thoughts before we can speak them.

    Am I judging? maybe. I see it more as concluding that I don’t agree. And I don’t have to be present at the service. Reading that your congregation was throwing plates at the cross surprised me. It disturbed my spirit. I discerned that it was not edifying to anyone and it was disrespectful. The feeling was the same as I get when someone curses and uses Jesus’ name in a string of filthy cuss words. It pierces my heart. It makes me sad. It disturbs and offends me.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Usually I am very sensitive to the Holy Spirit. And so I stand by my conviction.

    Yes, I’ve read all the minor prophets, in depth.

    My question for you is, didn’t your heart feel pricked when you considered that Satan loved them throwing plates at the cross?


    Comment by JD — October 28, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  17. Hi again,
    I re-read your reply to me and just wanted to clarify, I do not think anger is a sin. Anger can lead to sin. Ephesians 4 says to “be angry and sin not. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath”. It then says to “not give place to the devil”.

    Also, I am not condemning your church, I’ve never been to it, I don’t know the congregants, I’m on the other side of the world.
    I only know that encouraging anyone to throw a plate at the cross in anger is not of God. If you think it is, you are deceived.

    I pray God gives you eyes to see.
    And I don’t say that in a judging tone or with pious. I say that as a follower of Christ who has been deceived by the enemy in the past.
    The thing about being deceived is you don’t realized it. Pray.

    Take care-

    Comment by JD — October 28, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

  18. They have brought a whole lot of plates and were going to throw them at the cross as a way of exploring the place of anger in Christian faith.

    I’d like to hear more about this. Also your views on how a pastor should express and handle anger … assuming you do get angry sometimes ๐Ÿ™‚

    Comment by lorna (see-through faith) — October 29, 2007 @ 9:09 am

  19. Hi Lorna, am just about to jump on a plane and thus go offline for a week. will try and respond when i get back. in the meantime, what do you think? how should a pastor express and handle anger (assuming they are not robots but human and do experience anger:))?


    Comment by steve — October 29, 2007 @ 10:06 am

  20. Lorna,
    I had preached on minor prophets and how obadiah is about betrayal and where is God in those moments. that God, based on Obadiah, is obviously big enough to hear our anger.

    so Side door evolved from that. they invited people to think about what they were angry about, and to throw them at the foot of cross as sign of being honest and believing that God cares about all of life.

    in terms of me as a pastor. well i get angry. I try and process that and i’m learning to do it better. i try not to do it in ways that make other people voiceless and unable to respond, in other words, angry preaching i try and avoid cos people lose right of reply. so i try and find ways to talk and process.

    does that help?


    Comment by steve — November 15, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

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