Pastor – A calling by any other name is still a calling
Sure Pastor is a title. So is doctor. So is Shepherd. So is Mrs. So is wife or husband or president. Taking away the title does not change the reality of the role. Conversely, assuming a title that is not earned or bestowed does not make it a reality either. Perhaps titles are confusing or perhaps they are limiting, but that is part of their function. If someone says they hate titles, it does not change the fact that titles exist and have a powerful impact in our culture and lives. For example, if I assume the title of Doctor and practice medicine, I will eventually be arrested and sent to jail. By the way, isn’t changing, erasing or making up a new title is more “entitled” than living within the context of what is?!
Every follower of Jesus is called to be a minister. Not a single disciple of Jesus is exempt from the task of making disciples, being ministers of reconciliation, and serving others. However, some are called to a specific ministry of pastoring and others are not.
Of course every Christian has the right and the duty to share the gospel, but I do believe that some are called to vocational pastoral ministry, which requires a level of commitment and training not common to all. By comparison, all saints are to exercise all the gifts but each are apportioned different manifestations of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:4-7) to equip the saints until we all attain to the unity of the faith (Eph. 4:11-13).
I do not believe the gifts are distributed in lists of pink and blue, male and female, young and old. It does not matter whether or not I give someone the title of a pastor or a ministry director or a shepherd because I do not do the calling to ministry nor do I distribute the gifts! No human does! Ordination and the title associated are a cultural and biblical recognition of the calling and gifting of God on an individual’s life to vocational ministry.
I am proud of some of my titles: Aunt. Wife. Mom. Daughter. Friend. Pastor. Minister. Professor. I look forward to some of my future titles and the images and roles that they will bear like grandmother. There are other titles or roles that I wish were not mine and I try to ignore like widow and secretary because they have negative connotations but they are still realities in my life.
Worship has come to mean singing, but technically music is only one form and part of the broader definition. Similarly, using the word shepherd instead of pastor, even though pastor means shepherd in the original languages, the understanding and definition of a shepherd is no longer understood in our modern non-agrarian society. The title and role of a pastor does carry with it a broader description of function.
I think of the scene in the movie, A Few Good Men, where there is an exchange between Jack Nicholson’s character, Jessup, and the judge.
Jessup:I would appreciate it if he would address me as “colonel” or “sir.” I believe I’ve earned it
Judge: Defense counsel will address the witness as “colonel” or “sir.”
Jessup:[to Judge]I don’t know what the hell kind of unit you’re running here.
Judge:And the witness will address this court as “judge” or “your Honor.” I’m quite certain I’ve earned it.
[Sidebar comment – calling men pastors and women ministry directors is not really an issue for me. The real issue is calling anyone a pastor or shepherd who has not earned the title!]
So, I am wresting with a comment made at work this week. I do not want to diminish the call of God and the title I have earned. But is that prideful, stubborn or sinful? Am I “stuck” in an obsolete past? Are my ideas irrelevant? What am I misunderstanding? And if we are now calling all the current pastors and ministry directors shepherds, does that make me a “hired hand”? (John 10)