Monday, December 5, 2011

Entrepreneur or chaplain of souls?

Mark Galli at Christianity Today explains "Why We Need More 'Chaplains' and Fewer Leaders":
.... It's becoming increasingly common to infer that when a pastor becomes a "chaplain," the church is in trouble. A few years ago, one website encouraging "innovative" ministry listed five types of pastors that a church might call: Catalytic, Cultivator, Conflict-Quelling, Chaplain, and Catatonic. The page clarified that "each of these types carries positives and negatives," but it seemed clear that the further one went down the list, the more problematic was the pastor. At the top of the list were Catalytic pastors, who are "gifted in the prophetic and tend to be charismatic leaders. These pastors have lots of energy and are focused on the mission of the church … that is, reaching the community for Jesus Christ. In the 'right' church, they'll grow it without a doubt."

A Chaplain pastor, on the other hand, was mired near the bottom. A Chaplain pastor is "wired for peace, harmony, and pastoral care. This is the type of pastor that has been produced by seminaries for several decades, though a few … a very few … seminaries are retooling. Chaplain pastors eschew change and value status quo. They don't want to stir the waters; rather, they want to bring healing to hurting souls." And if that weren't bad enough, "Chaplain pastors don't grow churches. In fact, a Chaplain pastor will hasten a congregation's demise because they tend to focus on those within the congregation rather than in bringing new converts to Jesus Christ."

The assumptions here are all too common, I'm afraid. So we hear in many quarters that pastors should be leaders, catalysts, and entrepreneurs, and the repeated slam about pastors who are mere chaplains. ....

It's...interesting to note the way Jesus framed how his disciples should think about their ministries: "And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles like to be seen as "leaders," "entrepreneurs," "catalysts for growth," and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many' " (Mark 10:42-45).

Okay, I paraphrased a bit. But I'm not convinced the paraphrase is false to the sense of Jesus' words. In any case, it seems clear that Jesus was a chaplain of souls, and that he encouraged his disciples to think of themselves in the same way.

One wonders where we got our other ideas about the pastorate. For centuries, the pastorate was thought to be about "the cure of souls"—souls being understood not as the spiritual part of us, but as the fullness of our humanity. The pastor has traditionally been thought of as one who does ministry in the midst of a people who are sick and dying, and who administers in word and sacrament, in Scripture and in prayer, the healing balm of the Lord.

So who told us that the pastor is primarily a leader/entrepreneur/change agent and anything but a curer of souls? And why do we believe them? .... [more]