Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Cure of Souls

What the heck does a pastor do anyway? What does your pastor do? What's his/her job description? The truth is, most of don't know what a pastor does, or is supposed to do. The tougher truth is that there are a few of us who don't think they do much of anything, at least until Sunday rolls around. I grew up as a pastors kid, and can vividly remember the night I told my dad to get a job. Dang. Sorry dad. Of course, I have since learned the hard way that a true pastor carries a tremendous spiritual burden, and there is no clocking out. Even so, the job of pastor remains one of the most ambiguous career paths available. I think us pastors are just as confused about it as the lay folk. I personally have been through seven years of schooling, and have served as a full time minister for more than six years and I'm still not totally clear about what exactly I'm supposed to be doing.

For some clarity on the issue, I recently looked back at the original job description of the parish Priest. The ancient term used to describe the role of the Priest is "the cure of souls." It included five things.....Preaching the Word, giving the sacraments, giving Godly counsel, visiting the sick, and embracing the poor. That's it! Now, if you look at most job descriptions put out by present day pastoral search committees, you're bound to see something totally different. Outside of preaching the Word, nary a one of those five will have made the list. Instead you'll see things like "dynamic leadership",and " ability to take our church to the next level". Hence our conundrum, and thus our current identity crisis. For better or worse, we pastors have become significantly divorced from our original model. Strategizing and motivating are not the same as curing souls. And for the record, dynamic communication is not the really the same as preaching the Word. It's probably obvious, but the calling to cure souls resonates deeply with me. Fasting and praying for the flock is certainly not a glamorous usage of time, but the old saints understood that someone had to do it. Visiting the sick/poor, and offering communion is not bound to produce visible results, but that's what makes them sacred. To put it in Eugene Petersons words, pastors have been "lashed to the mast of Word and sacrament", whether we like it or not. Your thoughts? More on this next week.