Outside of scripture Peterson and Nouwen have been the most significant authorial influences in my understanding of pastoral ministry. In my seventh year of ministry at OBC I amm experiencing a need to revisit a my personal understanding of what it means to be a pastor. Life changes, churches change, we change and this I suppose is all good even if it does create some level of discomfort.
So in an attempt to grapple with this I am re-reading "The Contemplative Pastor" by Eugene Peterson.
Peterson notes that the term "pastor" has become "naked" redefined by our culture. "In general usage, the noun is weak, defined by parody and diluted by opportunism" (page 15). He notes that he refuses to accept the cultures definition because if he does he is rendered harmless (page 16).
While I affirm his feelings of being perceived as harmless the bigger issue for me is that the "nakedness" leads to what seems like a never ending list of adjectives to describe this "shape-shifting" noun. Some of these adjectives are created by assumed expectations in the culture and congregation but equally so from my own mind. Actually I am finding that the problem is not as much cultural redefinition of the word but my own inability to define the word (which for my postmodern friends may be one and the same – right? maybe?)
Is the issue "what is a pastor?" or "what isn’t a pastor?" In other words, "how long is the list?". Then there is the inevitable "I want to compare my list to your list" and then "is it OK if I don’t feel guilty about not doing something that is on your list?"
You know something, I love this calling on my life. But some days I don’t know whether I am coming or going.