Pastor, Tailor, Soldier, Spy?


Pastors have a weird job in a lot of ways. The weirdest part is that people are always expecting a pastor to “pastor and something else.” And this is not a new thing.

In Italy, in the 1400s, bishops rode around playing knights in armor instead of doing bishops work. In Norway, in the 1600s, the government expected pastors to collect taxes and teach parishioners how to plant potatoes. In England, in the 1800s, the hip thing was to be a pastor and a naturalist. the pastor was expected to spend their time observing and cataloging the rhythms of the natural world. In fact, a young man named Charles Darwin loved the naturalist part so much that he gave up the pastoring part.

Today, nothing has changed. People may not expect pastors to be knights, potato farmers, or naturalists, but they do expect pastors to juggle multiple hats. They expect pastors to be policemen, investigating people’s moral failings and judging them. Or, they expect pastors to be corporate geniuses, building an empire and farming out franchises. Or, most common in my own denomination, they expect pastors to be activists, changing America’s government to reflect God’s purposes.

The problem is, so often, these expectations swallow up a pastor’s actual job. The pastor gets so busy investigating parishioners or changing America that they don’t have time to proclaim the Word and administer the sacraments. And in this situation, everybody loses. Everything gets done poorly. So, think about it for a moment. And the next time you see your pastor, thank them for being just a pastor. Or, challenge them to throw all their other hats away, and just wear the pastoring hat. It may seem reductionist, but in the long run, I think it will be beneficial for everyone involved.

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