A Pastor's Role
Updated: Oct 25, 2020
You cannot become what you already are!
I have learned that it is all too easy for pastors to shape their reality around their office and their role.
I remember the day my father died. I was on my way to speak at a men’s retreat when I got the call. Dad had risen early, as usual, and with one step out of bed fell down, instantly gone.
This presented a dilemma. There are hundreds of men going to this camp and the first service was that night. Yet, I had to cancel and go to Oregon to be with my family and take care of thing. I was the oldest of the kids and…
Then I stopped, pulled off to the side of the road, wept for a while, and my mind was flooded with fond memories. Dad was a very special guy. We got along very well and I owed him everything! So, should I go to Oregon or keep my commitment to speak at the men’s retreat? Then it was as though Dad was there in the car with me and I knew what his expectation would be for me. I could delay going to Oregon, I could not ask the church group to cancel the retreat.
So, I went to the retreat and we had a time! Boy did we have a time. I changed my whole sermon series to, “Expectation of the Father.”
We are all trapped in a context of the expectation of others, whether it is parents, spouse, children, church, work, the boss, the government, the community – we have various contexts in our lives that shape us. We allow those relationships and each one brings an expectation with it.
This is true for the role of pastor. I did not realize until after my retirement that there were so many expectations laid on me by virtue of the role. Some were from the congregation, some from the denomination and some were simply expectation I laid on myself because of my concepts of the role.
Many of them were reasonable expectations that were a delight to accept. Some were not so reasonable and many were unbearable. I realized long before retirement that I could not meet all of the expectation of all of the people and that I had an obligation, not to simply frustrate them, but to help them rethink and adjust their expectation of me. For some, that worked. For other it did not.
The general expectation of our culture was that a church should have programs. Each church seems to have to compete with the rest to have the best and most complete list of programs. I look back now and think I did a poor job of this, simply because I tried my best to have the most and best programs. But God is greater than programs and I suspect now, could care less about most of them. The church should be a reflection of His person, not just a list of structured and socially expected programs.
The denomination also had expectations. They had corporate programs that needed support and mission’s programs that were essential to their agenda. Some were great thing to be doing, but others were much like most of our contrived agendas: They were essential to the corporate structures bot not essential to God.
So, how is it that we can live in a world of relationships without expectation and pressures to perform to the icon of someone else’s expectations? To some degree we cannot. If we choose the relationship then we also chose the expectations that come with it. If we enter the sports competition, then we agree to play by the rules.
But there is another side to that. It is the freedom to not allow ourselves to be bound to the legalism of any expectation but to be free to walk in the freedom of Christ. It is the understanding that I am measured by one measurement and one alone. It is the measurement of God and His view of me alone. It is the understanding that I do not have to be perfect in anyone’s eyes and that I am already accepted in the beloved. That means simply that God sees me through the sacrifice and life of Christ and I am accepted in the beloved.
As a pastor I struggled far too hard to please people and rested too little in the acceptance of Calvary. I am already judged, but the sacrifice of the Lamb. There is greater accomplishment in the understanding of who I am in Him, than in my struggling to perform for all the expectation of others.
Our world does not need more expectation and more laws and more judgment. It needs more acceptance, more love and more rest by living in the power and presence of He who lives in and through us.
I worked hard, far too hard. Now I rest. He loves me and has always been pleased with me. As long as He is pleased, so should I be. The reality is, God is in control of all thing, including me. His love and grace demand only one thing – That we allow Him to live through us. You are loved. You are blessed. You are in Him and He is in you. He did not come to make life miserable for you, but to bless you and to bring His love, peace and joy to you.
The massage to me has been: You cannot become what you already are. Relax and live.