These questions comes to mind as we are in this time of transition. Recently we've been looking back at the history of RLC, and of course, the past pastors have come to our attention. And I've heard of some of the things they have done, and not done.
One comment that I usually bring to a congregation in transition, and to the Ministry Exploration Team and Call Team, is that your next pastor will certainly not be the same as the pastors you have had; meaning that each pastor is a unique individual. And none of us are perfect! (I am evidence of that truth :)
This often comes to mind as I hear people saying what they want for their next pastor. And I'm thinking: "Wow! I know that none of us can do ALL those things that people want (for example, "we want a pastor who is able to relate to both the young and old". Yet a pastor is either going to be young, or old. None of us can be both :)
So how do we answer these questions I've asked? Of course Scripture is the first place to go The word "pastor" comes from the Latin word that means "shepherd". So we could go to the passages that refer to good shepherds (Psalm 23, Ezekiel 34, John 10, etc.) And we could describe a pastor as one who cares for and leads the sheep of God', always as those who are under the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ. We can go to such Scriptures as 1 Timothy 3, where the apostle Paul describes what "a bishop" needs to be, and understand the word bishop as a pastor of a congregation. I like the description given in 1 Corinthians 4:1, "Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries." And yes, in many ways, all of these descriptions also describe other people in the church and in our families.
We can also go to the Lutheran Confessions where we see descriptions of pastors as "regularly called" and to "preach publicly in the church or administer the sacraments".
We can go to Call documents where we read descriptions of pastors as a "minister of Word and Sacrament, in a mutual relationship and with steadfast commitment for the sake of our ministry in Christ's name in faithful witness to the Gospel...."
There are also ELCA congregational constitutions which state that "Every minister of Word and Sacrament shall preach the Word; administer the sacraments, conduct public worship; provide pastoral care, and other responsibilities (see the constitution)
But those are formal words that describe a pastor. If I were to put a describe what a pastor is, and what she/he does, I would say something like this:
I think a pastor is one who has prepared and been called by God through a congregation, to walk with the people of both the church and community, leading them to faith and life in Christ. And that includes preaching and teaching from the Scriptures and about how to live a life as one who is a follower of Jesus. I think a pastor needs to love the people of the church and community, lead them in new areas of ministry, and change her/his direction when they are wrong or things are not working well. I think a pastor is one who prays for his/her people, both publicly and with them one on one, and in her/his individual devotional life. I think a pastor needs to continually work on his/her relationship with people, visiting with them, listening to them, praying with them.
Of course there is more to these questions. And very sincerely, I would very much appreciate your thoughts on what you just read, and what you think a pastor should be and do. Let's talk about this! I'm still learning and growing. And I look forward to all that I can do to improve the work of being a pastor. And may this be my last word on what it means to be a pastor: I love it! I love serving and being with people, with you and all of God's people!
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Copyright 2023. Resurrection Lutheran Church, New Berlin, WI
RESURRECTION LUTHERAN CHURCH
Steve Rutter, Pastor
Julie Johnson, Worship Music Coordinator
Steph Albert, Worship Music
Larry Gnatzig, Office Administration
12400 West Coldspring Road
New Berlin, Wisconsin 53151