The Kind of Pastor I Am

Recently an anonymous poster on this blog began his comment: “While respecting the Pastor’s decision…”

The capitalization may have been an oversight, or an honest gesture of respect. But it made me a little nervous. You see, there are two dominant paradigms of what it means to be a Pastor/pastor.

The first paradigm is what I call “Pastor as Spiritual Expert.” In this model, the pastor is the guy who knows everything. The man who does everything right. The man whose family is in perfect order. The man who never sins, at least not the same way you do. The man who has mastered the sacred Scripture and is never confused or challenged by its complexity. The man who leads five people to Christ each week – while he’s on family vacation. The man who has expert knowledge of everything from advanced Hebrew exegesis to sociological interpretations of 1 and 2 Corinthians among current form-critical scholars. You should definitely capitalize this man’s title. I am not this man.

In fact, if you find this man, let me know ‘cause I’d like to hire him. (Then again, he might be kind of hard to work with.)

The second paradigm is what I call “Pastor as Repentant Leader.” A pastor is certainly to be a leader – that is the point of the requirements for eldership given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. I had better be leading by example, modeling a godly life, setting the ethical and spiritual and missional pace for the rest of our community. But a pastor is also to be the “Chief Repenter.” The one who messes up frequently, in public. The one who shows the rest of you why grace matters and why your identity in Christ is foundational and why redemption is a messy process. That’s who I am. And that’s the only kind of leader I really want to be.

I’m telling you, not everyone shares this paradigm. Perhaps not even all of you share it. Maybe you’re more partial to the “Pastor as Expert” idea (even though it’s not biblical). I really tend to frustrate people who like that model. Some of them have even called me a heretic. But that’s OK. They called Paul that, too. It didn’t stop him from rejoicing that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim. 1:15).

So, Coram Deo: I’m thankful for your respect, for your affirmation, for your willingness to follow me. I hope you honor my leadership and respect my authority and follow my example, because the Bible says all of those things are good (1 Tim. 5:17, Heb. 13:17, Heb. 13:7). Just don’t go capitalizing my title and stuff like that. It makes me uncomfortable. And please, please, don’t expect me not to sin, or not to hurt your feelings, or not to bow down and worship my heart idols from time to time. I am a broken man in the process of redemption, just like you.

I’m glad we had this conversation. Plan on giving me lots of grace to fail, and I’ll do the same for you… and in the process we’ll live out the dance of redemption. I’ll do my best to be the first to repent.


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