This paper was written for a class called Lift Together 2 in April, 2015. The process of writing this paper has allowed me to express my purpose and reason for being a pastor. This is the closest I have ever been to capturing my philosophy of ministry with words. 

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I am a Pastor because I know God’s love and I want others to know it as well.

John 17 and Leadership

John 17 is a passage that encompasses the who’s, what’s and why’s of Christianity. Jesus prays for himself, his disciples and the disciples to come. For me this passage reveals God’s plan for the world, Jesus’ desire for humanity and how we are to participate in the world. This passage also reveals an amazing model for leadership; Jesus is the ultimate example for how to be a Pastor, and this prayer is a beautiful instance of Christ’s leadership.

Here are a few of the leadership tips Jesus gives us in John 17. Jesus shows self-care by the very act of communicating with the Father, thus staying in communication with the One that sustains Him. Jesus is honest with God. He is not afraid to claim his desire and remembers the reason He does everything is for God’s glory. Christ stays centered on His purpose and follows through with what as asked of Him. Jesus prays for the people that have been put under His charge. Jesus recognizes that nothing can come solely from Himself but the work He has done is a product of His relationships with the people and His connection with God. Jesus is sensitive to when it is His time to leave. We can hinder growth if we are not open to God’s leading away from a community. Jesus is honest with His disciples about the gravity of the message He brings to them. He explains that this message will make them at odds with the world. This prayer also shows Jesus’ hope of protection as the disciples are sent out into a hostile world. Jesus desires unity for his disciples, and he prays for their oneness with God, themselves and with Him. Lastly, Christ holds the goal of His ministry in front of Him constantly, to claim love to be known throughout the world. Therefore, bringing about the Kingdom of God.[1]

The entire chapter has an amazing way of revealing Jesus’ pastoral heart for the world and how He sustains himself during His ministry. I believe these different themes above can be identified in four different categories: Both/And, Discipleship and Relational Ministry, Kingdom Naturalists, and Boundaries and Self-Care.

Both/And

To be a Pastor is to be like a shepherd, embracing sorrow and joy and helping people see these unfold in the world. This world is full of the Both/And. Even within ourselves we are working out our own understanding of the good and bad within us. Life can simultaneously bring sorrow and joy. As a Pastor it is my responsibility to help navigate the tension of the Both/And. It is my responsibility to help people see that God is celebrating with them in their joys, God has not left them in their time of sorrow and God is with them in the ordinary of the every day. In the joy it is my responsibility to remind people that all the glory belongs to God; thus it is about encouraging worship. In the sorrow it is my responsibility to help people to lament with God instead of separate from God. The Both/And is then lived out in and through discipleship and relational ministry.

Discipleship and Relational Ministry

Christian Ministry is the tangible place where the goings-on of the Body of Christ happen. From the beginning of time God has declared that we are not to be alone.[2] In community, Christians gather to help each other learn and grow in their faith in order to better serve God in the world they live – to be active members in the bringing of the Kingdom of God.

Ironically most of the Biblical letters and narratives are responses to people not living well in community. The very thing that God called us into from the beginning, community, is the very thing that trips humanity up. Concurrently, community is where much of the healing, growth and movement that are needed happen. To live life within community, for the glory of God, means you must do your best to live authentically, honestly and truthfully in the Both/And.

As a Pastor it is my responsibility to navigate through all this and help people see God in the midst of it. This is where discipleship and relational ministry fit in. Relational ministry is when you intentionally take time to spend life with the people with which you have been charged. Lunches, dinners, house renovations, hospital visits, school plays, games… the list goes on. Discipleship is what happens as your relationship grows. As a Pastor I am invited more and more into the ebbs and flows of people's lives. Therefore I am open to encourage, challenge, teach and give tough love. All this is done to help the individual to discover their role in God’s Grand Narrative – the bringing forth of the Kingdom of God.

Kingdom Naturalist[3]

The goal of discipleship is to become a better or developing Kingdom Naturalist. A naturalist is one that is an expert in natural history. They can enter into an ecosystem and explain how the entire environment works together to continue growing. A naturalist can point out a plant and tell you exactly what it is and its genus species. Naturalists help others see what is happening around them even when others cannot see the whole picture.

A Kingdom Naturalist is one that can walk into an environment and see where the Holy Spirit is moving. Becoming a Kingdom Naturalist is the process of becoming more and more aware of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the world. Because of their ability to see where the Holy Spirit is at work, a Kingdom Naturalist can then help others to see the Holy Spirit’s movement around them.

The truth is that the Holy Spirit is already at work in out world, yet we often have a hard time seeing the work of the Holy Spirit in action. The Body of Christ needs to be fostering a generation of Kingdom Naturalists to help each other and the rest of the world see what the Holy Spirit is up to. As a Pastor it is my job to help facilitate opportunities for this development to happen, whether it be through Sunday gatherings, classes, missions trips, Sunday school, leadership development, one-on-one mentorship or any other relational connection. People are Kingdom Naturalists in their own unique ways and a Pastor needs to help this awareness develop. 

Boundaries and Self-Care

The only way I can do the job of Pastor is to set up good boundaries for myself and find ways to take care of myself well.  Because I love people so much, I must set boundaries so I will not burn out. I have found that having a group of colleagues that do not go to my church that I can talk to about what it means to be a Pastor is important. Counseling or spiritual direction is also a key component for my own self-care. I need to have a space where I am free to talk about what I am experiencing in my community.

As a single woman, it is important that I guard my time. Many make assumptions about the time that a single person might have, yet it is important that I set time aside for rest, exercise and self-development. If I am not rested I cannot be fully present for others. If I have not taken time to exercise I am not taking good care of myself.[4] If I am not taking strides to develop myself spiritually and emotionally then I am becoming complacent. If I am complacent then I am not conditioning myself to pastor well. As a Pastor, it is my responsibility to take care of myself so that I may faithfully be present for those I am serving.

Conclusion

I know that as I grow more and more into the role of Pastor, my understanding of these four categories[5] will expand and change. I trust that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide me as I continue to develop more into the Pastor I have been made to be. I have been called to partner with God and those around me to bring more of God’s Kingdom to earth. This call is big. This call is far bigger than I am. I am thankful that it is God who has called me, Christ who has shown me how to lead and the Holy Spirit who will continue to guide me.

[1] John 17:1-ff

[2] Genesis 2:18

[3] A term I heard from the Rev. Doc. Brenda Salter-McNeil.

[4] This is a hard area for me today and something that I will continue to work on.

[5] Both/And, Discipleship and Relational Ministry, Kingdom Naturalists, and Boundaries and Self-Care