Pastoring: If I Started Over What Would I Focus On? John W Frye Fellowship Evangelical Covenant Church
in near Grand Rapids, responds today to that question.
Graduated from DTS in 1975 and have been a pastor since (except for 2 years when I was on faculty at Moody Bible Institute). I was trained that theology was ?the queen of the sciences.? In this model, pastoral ministry was marginalized and skillfully exegeting the Scriptures was the pivotal pastoral task. Preaching had priority over people. Studying and expositing the Book had priority over building relationships with people.
In my early years a lingering value still suggested that pastors shouldn?t get too close to people because the pastor might not be able to maintain his ?objectivity.? All of this created a low church liturgy where the Sunday sermon was what mattered most. Preaching was the big thing in the service. Getting to know the Book was more important than getting to know God. Mistakenly in the minds of most, the one equaled the other. I became a theological technician, not a pastor. Put me in a white lab coat and I would have been mistaken for a social scientist.
Then in the midst of modern American evangelical pastoring, I met Jesus the Pastor. He is the good pastor, the great pastor, the chief pastor (see John 10, Hebrews 13, and 1 Peter 5). Jesus undeniably cared deeply for people and got close to them. He even led a small group. The Apostle Paul said that he became like a nursing mother and caring father to his people (1 Thessalonians 2). This sounds like very close relationships to me. Jesus cared about little things, too, like a widow?s two mites, a fallen sparrow, a cup of water, a coin, five loaves and two fish. Jesus? ministry didn?t turn on his synagogue exegetical sermons. He mixed it up with people outside the ?church walls? at Matthew?s house, a Samaritan well, a roof top, a wedding, a garden, the lake shore, a Pharisee?s house, long dusty roads, and a graveyard.
Preaching is not pastoring. Preaching is part of the liturgy for the community of believers. Pastoring is about the individually named people who have individual stories, with their individual dreams and wounds, their particular gains and losses, their anxieties and hopes, their longings for and fears of God. Pastors live within God?s grand Story of salvation and help others see how their individual stories can get caught up into God?s Story. I like the image Eugene H. Peterson uses for pastors: pastors are detectives searching out the slightest evidence of God?s grace in peoples? lives. I?ve learned that pastors are artists of the soul, not religious scientists.