Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pastoralia: What Does a Pastor Do?

So, what is it, exactly, that a pastor does? Sometimes, considering questions like this can be very illuminating. Here are some popular answers.

Pastors
        help people to get to know God
        teach the Bible
        comfort folk
        provide guidance as people face problems
        manage the church

Now, all of those are pretty good (except for the last one). But I’d like to offer a different perspective that I think enlightens them all. A pastor is someone who interprets reality for the sake of his congregation.

One reason for the problems that we face is that we do not understand very well how life works. Sin has affected us in mind and heart and will. We do not have a good grasp on reality as God has constructed it. So, Jesus has given pastors to His Church. They are to interpret reality for the benefit of their congregations.

This explains, for example, what a sermon is. It’s the pastor explaining some aspect of reality as revealed in a particular bit of Scripture. I’ve been going through the first chapters of Genesis on Sunday mornings. One of things that I’ve said more than once is, ‘This is how God runs His creation’. I’ve said that in talking about what God has to say about things like rest, work and the sacred. I’m explaining reality.

Why I need to do this should be obvious. The people of my congregation need to live according to what is real, according to reality. The world is filled with lies about all sorts of things, and there are so many around us who work at living according to those lies. They are not working with God as He runs His creation but against Him. They are not living according to reality. And that’s why their lives are not working as well as they might. My goal is to help my congregation see the lies and reject them so that as they live according to what is real they will be able to live well.

To do this there are some things that pastors need to do. They need to understand reality. And that’s pretty obvious. You can’t explain what you don’t know yourself. If a pastor is going to be able to do this he will need to meditate on God’s revelation about the nature of reality. This is more than knowing lots of Bible verses. It’s about knowing what lots of Bible verses have to say about reality. It’s as you put all those different verses together that you are able to get a sense of what reality is about. Working on this is something that a pastor is continually doing through lots of different means.

Pastors also need to understand their people. What are the issues that they are facing? Once that is clear a pastor can explain what is real when it comes to those areas, what is reality as God defines it. But he is won’t able to do that unless he is with his people, listening to what’s going on in their lives, what they are wrestling with. That’s when he knows what part of reality needs to be explained. And that will guide him when it’s time for him to

        help people to get to know God
        teach the Bible
        comfort folk
        provide guidance as people face problems
        manage the church

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