Giddy up my friends, my homiletics class is now complete and I should now receive my pastoral licensing!! It was a great class and I really enjoyed learning about preaching and teaching. We had two great messages preached last night, one that was preached in Spanish by Jose, and it was awesome. Although I couldn't understand the spoken language, the physical and spiritual aspect of it could not be hidden. Jose spoke with such passion, confidence, and urgency that there was no missing out on God speaking through him. What a great experience and an awesome way to cap off our nine weeks of dissecting the topic of preaching. As we were putting the wraps on the class our teacher said something that I think is absolutely critical to great preaching. He said, "Live so that your greatest message will only be an echo of your daily life." How awesome and true is that? I think people can pick up on that so quickly, and if a message is only a good idea and not a way of life, then it will wither away so very quickly.
Thinking on my journey to becoming a licensed pastor, I have to say things sure have changed over the years. I started taking classes about seven years ago (on and off, then on, then off again, now on til completion) and what it was to be a pastor just looked much different. Even going back to my childhood, the responsibility of a pastor is so very different. Growing up, the pastor of the small church I attended was a preacher and counselor, or shepherd if you will. His job was to teach the congregation and he divided the week between preparing his message and just caring for the needs of the people. Then when I was in college, I experienced church on a larger level and the role of the pastor was drastically different. The church was morphing into a big Sunday experience and so the pastor became a producer and engineer in the creative process of putting on a program. And for its time, this was very appealing to people to see and experience church in an exciting way, far removed from pews and pounding of the pulpit. The pastor still preached, but the audience was now much different and so the message was filled with props, jokes, and all things "culturally relevant." The name even changed from pastor to director, and the responsibility of caring for the congregation was just to unrealistic because of the size. So the church hired other pastors to care for the people and the pastor-turned-director, spent his time in the production booth, making sure that Sunday would be the greatest highlight of the week.
And today you see much of the same, pastors are rarely called pastors, and they spend a good portion of their time administrating programs and experiences for the people. Pastors are now called architects, designers, or whatever the hot new terms that are not pastor. As for me, I could care less what the name is, but the job description is what I think is sadly missing the point. You see, church staffs have grown so much because pastors are no longer the pastors and so the church has to hire other pastors to do the work of the pastorate. I find it all a bit confusing as well, but I guess this is the church in the 21st century. I think it would be very interesting to travel around and poll pastors on how they spend their time. I would guess a good portion of it is administrating programs of some sort first, and then who knows from there. You take someone like Rob Bell for instance, he is on staff as the teaching pastor, because his job is teaching and working with a team to listen to God for the spiritual direction of the church. Here's the thing, that is considered very rare in most churches, because people expect the pastor to be doing a bunch of other things? Funny how a pastor that focuses on teaching the word and helping discern the spiritual direction of the church is now a "teaching pastor." It's interesting how Christian colleges and Universities are teaching ministerial students how to run programs, be "relevant," and learn how to be good directors. I'm sure some people would argue that Rob is in some different league or whatever, but my point is, he felt God calling him to start a church, and he did so with preaching the word and leading a community that will live out the spoken word.
I recognize that the church will look different, as it should, but it amazes me how different the role of pastor has become. I have had plenty of people tell me that the pastors of Watermark are a bit different than what they are used to. But although people will point out how they look (long hair, crazy hair, untucked shirts), it's usually the heart for people, and especially a heart for change that people will pick up on. Not a change in styles, programs or what have you, but a change in hearts. This has got to be at the center. I guess if the church wants to hire directors, producers, or architects, then so be it. But the church cannot veer away from having pastors, who first and foremost, have a desire to see life change. A pastor is someone who is in love with God and in a relationship with Jesus Christ. His/Her desire is to know and preach the Word of God, and be a shepherd to God's children. I guess I am ready for the church to leave show business to those in show business, and have the church be in no business, but God's business.