To My Fellow Pastors…who are People too!

I am a real person who occupies an office.

David Rohrer in The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry
Then God said, ’Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. –  Genesis 1:26, 2:7

By way of encouragement, here is a question I have repeatedly asked myself. Is being a pastor and a human being mutually exclusive?

These last months may have presented us with an opportunity to rekindle a connection to our humanity in unexpected ways. This could be vital to us as we slowly emerge into a new paradigm of ministry life – and worth exploring.

I have begun to take my cue from two worthy sources – the Apostle Paul and the Church Father, Irenaeus.

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. -1 Timothy 4:16

The glory of God is a human being fully alive. –  Irenaeus

Could it be that it is just as important to pay attention to our lives as it is our teaching? And not just the moral part of our lives, but the whole orb of our existence as human beings?

When I think about it, Irenaeus statement is not the usual way I think of glorifying God. It certainly isn’t what I remember being taught in church or Bible college. It seems that most of our evangelical spirituality is limited to doctrine and moral development, and very little to the rest of what makes us human.

It appears that in many ways we have slipped into a functional Dualism. Unfortunately, ignoring our fundamental humanity – the embodiment that God saw was good from the beginning – sets the stage for those of us in ministry to become human doings instead of human beings.

Given our history and cultural context, it is all too easy to believe that the spiritual life may be a life opposed to the body or even, at its “best,” a totally disembodied mode of existence. So the idea is widespread that you can only be really spiritual after you are dead. Spirituality, it has been said, is for the very old and the very dead

Dallas Willard , in The Spirit of the Disciplines

We have BODIES that need rest, exercise, recreation, intimacy, eating and drinking. We have hearts and souls that need stewarding, as well as the ministry tasks. And the months of pandemic limitations may have been just the gift we have needed to embrace these truths.

Incarnation and embodiment are foundation building blocks for human flourishing and ministry health. Ministry is rooted in time and space, in a particular location, among particular people. We are not unlimited.

Here’s a thought I find myself chewing on a lot… God believed that becoming human was the best way to get things done, so He sent His Son into the world – in a body – to redeem it.

So, when you can’t do it all and feel defective, remember that Jesus embraced his full humanity, which meant that things were left undone, and people unattended to. Somehow that was ok. It appears that being a pastor and a human being are not mutually exclusive.

Thank you for doing your best to be a person – a WHOLE person – while living out your vocational call.

I would love to hear what you think. In the meantime, I will leave you with this from Thomas Merton.

“Christianity is not stoicism. The Cross does not sanctify us by destroying human feeling. Detachment is not insensibility. Too many ascetics fail to become great saints precisely because their rules and ascetic practices have merely deadened their humanity instead of setting it free to develop richly, in all its capacities, under the influence of grace.”

From Thoughts in Solitude

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