Being a pastor is probably one of the only professions that can be faked without anyone really noticing – except God, of course.
Most people have no idea what we pastors actually do since most of what we do goes on out of the public eye leaving the impression in the minds of many that we only work one day a week. Monday through Saturday remains a mystery to them so it’s taken for granted we’re doing some sort of religious job whatever that is. Most pastors are nice enough so folks don’t ask questions and assume the best. For the most part they’re happy to have us around to add spiritual window dressing to their lives, giving them the feeling of God-connection and leave us to do whatever it is that we actually do.
Who am I as a pastor? What do I do? How do I do it? These are questions that a surprising number of pastors continue to wrestle with even after being in the ministry for years. John Wimber once told a group of us pastors, “Figure out who you are then you’ll know what to do and how to do it.” Many pastors haven’t and end up faking it by turn the ministry into a religious job; impersonating hawkers of spiritual goods and services. Faking it by becoming religious merchants keeping their customers happy, out doing their competitors, coming up with better packaging so their customers stay happy and pay more.
So what does a pastor do? What I’ve learned having gone through bouts of faking it myself is that meetings, programs, campaigns and facilities are not at the center of this work. At the center of the pastor’s work is Christ. It’s about joining with him in caring for people and leading them into the abundant life he’s made available by his death, resurrection and by the giving of his Spirit. In this work my human effort is necessary but at best, secondary.
How do I go about doing this work? Paying attention to what Christ’s doing by engaging in prayer and the Word. Prayer and the Word keep me from faking it and keep me on track. I realize now that everything about the pastoral ministry starts with prayer and the Word. Ministry is formed out of prayer and the Word. Genuine pastoral ministry is not selling Christ or building a big successful church. It’s not first and foremost problem solving and fixing people and situations. It’s discerning what Christ is up to in peoples’ lives and joining him in what he’s doing. I’ve found that when I stick to that work there’s no need to make things up or to fake it.