The title alone sounds like something from Dr. Seuss but I promise I didn’t steal it from one of the late author’s literary masterpieces.
A few weeks ago, I had a great discussion with a pastor friend at another church and we talked about the different qualities in pastoral leaders in churches we have served in our ministry paths. It wasn’t a negative thing – more of a defining discussion of how pastors today are different from 25 years ago, 10 years ago, etc.
I suggested the thought that not all Pastors are preachers and not all preachers are pastors, even though the business card says otherwise. More specifically, the callings are different for each person. God may have called them to be a Biblical pastor to their current church fold – not so much of a preacher. Moreover, the current calling the other pastor may have is to be the Biblical preacher and not so much of a pastor. Are those scenarios even possible? Do you have to have a 50/50 split of Pastor/Preacher in every Senior Pastor in America? Do you change from church to church based on what that church needs once you are serving in that environment?
Today, I am thankful to share the insight from five local church pastors/ministers who are serving in a local church. Here are some of their anonymous replies to these thoughts:
(Pastor A) I try to pursue both of those things in my ministry. Preaching is definitely where I feel stronger but I didn’t always feel that way as I used to feel stronger Pastorally than preaching. Experience helps a lot and has changed my perception slightly. I feel more balanced. Whether others perceive me as balanced I couldn’t answer. But I try hard to balance the two each week, and I feel that it is important for ministers in general, not just pastors, to pursue both study of the Word and pastoral care for the health of the church. I never apologized if I could not to both equally. Now that I am in the pastor role I hear people say things like “He was a great preacher, but he wasn’t good at pastoral care.” That breaks my heart to hear that. I want to cultivate both. We can get better.
(Pastor B) Rarely do I see a great pastor who has the ability to preach well and rarely do I see a great preacher who has the ability to pastor well. The question comes to mind though: Is this necessarily bad? I don’t think so. We are all gifted in different areas of ministry within the church and these two specific areas of ministry stand alone and apart from each other (for the most part). Preaching deals with interpreting scripture to train and instruct your congregation. Being a Pastor deals with shepherding and disciplining the flock- It’s in this area that you deal with people one-on-one. Preaching deals with scripture interpretation/teaching and being a Pastor deals with exhortation, mercy, and shepherding. Sometimes these areas can cross a little, but overall, in my opinion, the congregation should NOT expect their pastor to be both equally gifted in these areas.
(Pastor C) Another title for the modern pastor is CEO. The administration side of things seems to have shifted to pastors today where they are the ones everything falls back on. Moreover, I think every pastor is a preacher; but not every preacher is a pastor. I also think that God calls each pastor and preacher… but each pastor and or preacher may not be gifted in one of those areas. Paul said, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). Therefore can a pastor be more gifted (or stronger) in one area than the other? I think so. Is it a 50/50 split in terms of strength? No. I feel that one or the other comes more naturally to most. And, the one that comes more natural, often involves the least time involvement. The one that comes with more difficulty, often requires the most time commitment. At least that is the way with me. And, with time and experience, a pastor or preacher can become stronger in each area.
(Pastor D) The pastor is 100% under-shepherd of Christ. Preaching and pastoring are the means by which the pastor shepherds. The shepherd must put his all into each in order to fulfill his calling. However, due to the different gifts and abilities of each shepherd, some are simply better at one or the other. Thus, those more gifted in preachings ought to exploit that more natural gift and vice-versa all the while regularly working on and improving his weaknesses. In the end, the shepherd must remember that preaching is pastoring and pastoring is preaching. Whether holding the hand of a dying member or exegeting a difficult text, the shepherd has not changed hats (preacher on Sunday and pastor on Monday). He is always proclaiming and he is always pastoring because he is always the under-shepherd of Christ.
(Pastor E) I think one of the challenges the church has faced in recent years is the decline of the “Superpastor,” the big personality who could lead every charge and face every foe, personalities upon which many of the major churches in the US have been built. One trend that has emerged in the past few decades is the disastrous transitions many of these “personality-driven” churches have faced. When the great leader dies, these churches have struggled to move forward. As a result, many pastors have embraced a more concentric style of leadership, specifically of raising up other leaders within the church, so that when the pastor transitions, the church doesn’t drift in the same manner as it did with the “great man” theory. The real test of leadership, someone has mentioned, is what happens after your gone. If everything collapses, then it’s likely that a good foundation wasn’t in place or that the church was too dependent on you.The truth is, some pastors are extraordinarily gifted in many areas. They can preach, they can cast vision, they can administrate, and they can counsel. Usually, though, these guys are few and far between. Every pastor possesses some measure of gifting, but few pastors possess all levels of gifting. A wise pastor will surround himself with people who are gifted in areas in which he is not. I think there’s also a trend of pastors expressing more vulnerability from the pulpit, perhaps as an effort to expel the myth of the “Superpastor.” The more a church understands this reality (that pastors are sinners and come up short in certain areas too), the more accepting of a pastor’s weaknesses they will be.For me, a pastor’s primary responsibility is to preach the Word. That doesn’t mean he has to be a great preacher, just that he consistently exposits the Word and puts in the time necessary to do so (he’s not slothful about it). The problem is, though, especially in smaller contexts where the pastor is personally known by all the people, they won’t follow if your life doesn’t lead. In other words, if you don’t practice what you preach by lovingly shepherding and being among your people (knowing at least something about their lives and what they’re going through), then what you say in the pulpit won’t mean a thing to them. Someone said a pastor needs to smell like sheep. I think there’s truth in that statement. I also think a pastor has to lead. If you’re not casting vision for your people, the ministry becomes disjointed. If I had to narrow it down to two things, I would say lead and feed.
While I have gained more insight into how I am wired, at mid-life, I have had to face another reality. I prefer to work out of my giftedness, to concentrate my efforts only in areas of ability and interest. But ministry often falls under the 90/10 principle: 90 percent of what I do is what I must do in order to get to do the 10 percent I love to do. For example, I love to preach. The thirty minutes I communicate God’s Word on Sunday are most often pure ecstasy. But wrangling with a board or putting out a church fire, which can consume inordinate amounts of time, drains me. I have often wished I could preach 90 percent of the time.
When I was in my early thirties, I led a conference in the church of an older pastor who became my unintentional mentor. By this time in ministry, I was experiencing some frustration—too much to do and too little time to do it. At the conclusion of the conference, I asked the pastor to critique my presentation. He made some generous comments and then gave me some constructive criticism about my filling the presentation with sarcastic one-liners. Then he gave me some unsolicited advice. He told me that if I continued at the pace I was working I would soon burn out. He advised me to choose whether I wanted to be a pastor or a preacher, and that I should make the decision before I turned forty. He was of the opinion that to be effective in my mature years the choice between pastor or preacher must be made—one would be my “major” and the other my “minor.” “Churches will allow you to be mediocre in both areas when you are young,” he said, “but once you are in your mid-life, congregations need you to excel in one and bring in people to help you in the other.”He had decided to be a pastor, and his ministry gave evidence that his decision had been well made. Now I had a dilemma: my two role models espoused what I perceived to be conflicting views. One said you can do all things well, while the other said you have to be a specialist. From the perspective of mid-life I can see now that to some extent both views contain truth. An effective pastor develops skills in all areas of ministry but learns how to use these skills at different stages of life. In some seasons of ministry, we may need the honed skills of a specialist, yet in most churches we have to function in more generalist roles. Much of our early years are spent trying to learn the basics, but only in mid-life do we have the skills and life experiences to know when to be a specialist and when to be a general practitioner. For most it takes until mid-life to become competent in the three key areas of pastoral work: communication/preaching, pastoral care, and leadership/administration. It took me almost a decade per area to reach a measure of competence. Most ministers typically feel more confident and competent in just one area. But when I visited with pastors serving effectively in their fifties and sixties, I discovered most of them had to develop competence in each area over time. Ironically, just at the point of achieving competence, some ministers are tempted either to narrow their ministry to one area or to leave the ministry because the demands appear to be too great.
Fenton. 1999. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.