The Pastoral Task
Thus far in 2019, I have considered one major question, "What is the task of pastoral work?" In other words, what should pastors be doing? Pastoral job descriptions are often thought of in three categories: the preacher, the counselor, and the leader. Which is fine but I think there's something more here.
Right or Wrong, I have come to the conclusion that the #1 task of a pastor is to love people. It's that simple and yet that powerful.
I often think of Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:1,"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." In short if pastors don't love people then they basically have lost their ministry. They can probably preach and lead well, but if they really don't love people, they really aren't leading people.
I am struck by the power of love. Love takes on many, many forms and shows itself in unique ways. I love public intellectual Charlie Self's definition of work, "All meaningful and moral activity apart from leisure and rest." When we think of work we often think of it as only narrow economic constraints of time traded for money. Though pastoral work goes beyond a paycheck. It's investing in people's lives.
Sometimes love is work and sometimes work is love.
Many times in pastoral "work" it's "work" to love people. Once in while you'll land in a great church were people are awesome, like Victory Church, my Victors are beautiful people. They love to be loved. I'm reminded of 1 Peter 3:8 when he states, "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble." I've learned to give people the benefit of the doubt.
You really don't know the kind of pain that people are living in. Believe me it's a lot.
In an age when pastors are bombarded with organizational leadership and business culture, all of which is important, we simply cannot get in the way of real people needing real love. I'm challenged by Luke's words in Acts 20:28, "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood." This scripture sits deep in me for a number of reasons here's three reasons why sometimes love is work and work is love:
Three Reasons Work is Love
1.) People Don't Know How to Love. I have come the conclusion that most people don't know how to receive love because they have never really been loved. It's really hard for people to trust others who are motivated by Jesus commandment to love one another (John 13:34-35). When people open their heart it's a sacred act and a real privilege for pastors.
2.) People are Broken. I continue to be amazed at the level of emotional heaviness that people have absorbed. I'm even more amazed how sensitive and how many trigger points people have due to unresolved unforgiveness and pain. I break when people have little to no tools to be able to address brokenness and loss. It's painful to watch. Scott Hagan of Northcentral University says it best, "The love pressing in must be stronger than the pain pushing out."
3.) People Need Attention. In our digital age of hyper-connectivity of social media its ironic that people have more "friends" yet more and more people are experiencing increased loneliness. People aren't craving click friends; people are craving attention from real people. Real relationships. Real friends. Real love.
I'm growing. I'm learning. I'm growing and learning that real work is real love. Sometimes love is work and I'm ready to work. A former professor of mine said it the best, "You can't lead the people if you don't love the people" (Cornell West).
Pastors let's get loving. I mean get to work.