Short Thoughts on Ministry – Pastoral Calling

Recently a good friend of ours asked us about our thoughts on calling and living life as a minister of the gospel. I shared 3 brief thoughts and then some very good and thought provoking statements from Eugene Peterson who’s thinking on this area I admire immensely. I’m sharing them here with you in the hope they may encourage some of you.

1. Jesus said “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail” – This tells me to two things, first the apostolic ministry is Jesus’ – he intends to build his church, and we should acknowledge that it takes place inspite of us at many times. To rely on this faithful promise is to acknowledge that the burden for this work rests on the shoulders of the cornerstone, and our question is, like Jesus, asking everyday “What is the Father doing?” and look for creative and grace-filled ways to partner with the ways he is working in people’s lives. Secondly, as someone usefully pointed out to me, gates do not attack, if we are following Jesus, we will be increasing the dominion of his kingdom by being with the lost. In short WE must GO to the lost, we cannot ask of others what we are not willing to live out ourselves.

2. As brothers and sisters ministering to one another, the minister is not so much the shepherd as we are a courageous sheep! Modelling and ‘being the first in line’ to hear, obey and follow the shepherd. Discipleship is modelling and articulating the life of Jesus in ourselves as a roadmap for others.

3. Although Jesus in one sense is deeply concerned with the individual and locality of gospel efforts, His Mission is the ‘Missio Dei’ the mission of God, not just ‘Missio Bodmin’ or ‘Missio Masiphumelele’ – Expect and be excited about unexpected graces in unexpected places, people and ministries, remembering we are alway building a kingdom that already has a king, not a corporation that needs a CEO.

Some thoughtful propositions on pastoral ministry from Eugene Peterson, who, from reading his work, seems to hold much wisdom on what pastoral ministry actually is…I hope it useful reflective material for you –

A lifetime of influence always reflects a person of character.

A pastor is not a job description, it’s a life that’s shaped in a certain way.

We are all shaped by our environments.

To try and model yourself after someone else is almost always a mistake.

Being a pastor is the most context-specific vocation there is.

As a pastor, your life is your vocation.

As a pastor he knew what he wanted to do but didn’t know how to do it.

He didn’t want to be an “entertainment” pastor.

He didn’t want to be Presbyterian, that was like doing bookkeeping.

He wanted to makes sure people knew about God and that they knew each other.

A Holy God, a holy congregation.

He knew he needed to be insistently local, the congregation is a local place.

It has to be personal, you have to have relationships with all of the people.

There was still a church building to be built and funds to be raised.

He realized he had an adrenaline addiction… he liked to compete.

He realized he didn’t know how to be a pastor but realized his congregation didn’t know what was a pastor was either… so he was proactive to make sure they knew who he was as a pastor and so he could know who they were as a church.

He didn’t want to run a church, he wanted to be a pastor.

All of us learn how to do what we are doing while we’re on the job.

None of us are exempt from learning how to be a pastor on the job and to trust the people who are with us on the job.

We need to let other people be ministers along with us.

You need to give people responsibility and authority to create a holy community.

Determine not to look at people as problems to fix.

Do not look at people as resources to use.

Doing either of this is dehumanizing.

Treat people with dignity and as eternal souls, not as ways to make a living.

Most of the leadership models we have given to us in our secular culture have to do with getting something done.

Making money, building something, going on a mission, etc.

A pastor’s chief job is not to get something done but to pay attention to what’s going on and to be able to name it and to encourage it.

We live in a secularized world where leadership positions almost entirely do with having to get something done and figuring out how to do it.

A pastor has a unique position in the church of Christ to be on the ground and local in a community, paying attention to what God is doing and helping people see it through the exposition of Scripture and teaching.

People pay more attention to listening.

The Bible is our Story.

The pastoral vocation has to do with being available to people, to lead them into maturity and in the life of Christ without mimicking you.

People need to grow in Christ in the context of who they are, in their vocations, etc.

Being a pastor is a modest job. We are not important in the economy of the world… we are, however, important in the economy of the Kingdom of God.

Worship, teaching, silence and being present are major parts of being a pastor.

Everybody has a story.

Spiritual formation doesn’t mean getting a bunch of disciplines together and doing them, it means paying attention to what’s going on in your life.

The caution: don’t let culture define our position and our vocation.

Secular culture infiltrates the church… we live in a sea of secularity, it’s hard not to be influenced by it.

Think deeply, pray deeply, read widely in the literature of pastors.

Steep yourself in the community and company of pastors.

This is a unique vocation and we can learn from a lot of people and we need to pay attention to the people who have done it well.

Understand the inner-workings of the pastoral life.

Steep yourself in the literature of the life of faith.

Keep your guard up against the secular stuff going on around us.

There is a lot of pessimism in the church today.

We’ve been in this position so many times … for 2,000 years, and for 2,000 years before that as a Jewish community.

We’ve never been successful at it.

Israel was only faithful every once in awhile…

All throughout it, though, salvation is still working out in spite of us.

3 Comments on “Short Thoughts on Ministry – Pastoral Calling

  1. Grate posting Liam. I could not agree with it more. I particularly felt drawn by your first three points. Also another comment I have is on these two points:-

    [1] “The caution: don’t let culture define our position and our vocation”
    So important to keep the balance. It’s a matter of been in the world but not of the world situation I think. . I am not saying that the gospel message should be compromised or adapted in anyway here. But, should have a relevant, contextual, application that enhances and manifests God’s kingdom. But I would say that it has to have “some” influence over it.

    [2] “Secular culture infiltrates the church… we live in a sea of secularity; it’s hard not to be influenced by it.”
    The Good old Catholic Church is a living testimony to this in my opinion.

    • Roger, great insights again here. I guess our methods will always change, and should be those which endear the hearer to the message, but I think this point may be referring to pastors often feeling like they should imitate the role of CEO’s or politicians when the pastor is a vocation and holds a kingdom culture as its identity.
      Thanks for conversing on these, Liam

  2. Thanks for this! Someone just said they thought I had a pastoral gifting so this helps me explore what that could mean.

    I like this:
    A pastor is not a job description, it’s a life that’s shaped in a certain way.

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