A role model is someone who serves as an example, whose behavior is worthy of emulation. Who should the pastor look to in order to find a pattern for his work? Who is it that provides the best paradigm for pastoral ministry? Here are some suggestions based on what I have read, heard, and seen.
1. The Politician. In America politics and religion are inseparable, thus the politicians take cues from the clergy and the clergy from the politicians. This model emphasizes the art of persuasion and it has in focus the aim of controlling the church’s agenda or climbing the denominational ladder. “If I want to get to that position in this denomination then this is the kind of pastor I must be,” is sort of the mindset. It is a model that leads to fan clubs (see 1 Cor. 3:1-6). If the politician is the pastor’s role model then his playbook is the church’s constitution and the denomination’s platform or by-laws. The politician is not the pastor’s role model.
2. The Priest. The priest is the guy who is sanctioned to do the religious rituals for the church. In the OT it was the priests who administered the sacrifices of Israel, and as such, functioned as mediators between Israel and God. This is the model for denominations who call their pastors “priests,” a title I’ve been given by people outside my church on more than one occasion. The New Testament soundly rejects a “priestly caste” in the Christian church. There is one Mediator between man and God and that is Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5) and as such all who are in Christ become priests (1 Pe. 2:4-10). While the pastor certainly is to intercede before God for the congregation through prayer, he does not serve as their mediator to God. If the priest is the pastor’s role model, then the liturgical manuals are his playbook. But the priest is not the pastor’s role model.
3. The Professor. The professor is well educated. According to this model he needs a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and maybe even a doctorate. If he doesn’t have all the degrees, he is at least bookish. He knows His Bible and theology, Greek and Hebrew, history and philosophy and he can stand in front of others and pass along this knowledge, or he can write in such a way as to spread the wealth of what he has come to know. He produces copious notes for the congregation with every sermon. There is a crying need for Christian scholarship these days. Too many are satisfied with surface, shallow understandings of God’s Word and have no interest in delving into its limitless depths. Pastors a few generations ago were the scholars. Some of the thick theologies on my bookshelves were written by pastors who were great theologians. However, as needful as Christian scholarship is, it is not the essence of pastoral work. If the pastor’s role model is the professor, then his playbook is his theology books and commentaries. The pastor’s role model is not the professor.
4. The Chief Executive Officer. The CEO knows how to influence people. He knows how to cast vision, set goals, and motivate a group to achieve those goals. Based on the majority of books being written on pastoral leadership, there is no question but that the CEO is considered a role model for pastors. While I have learned helpful leadership principles from these books, I am absolutely convinced that pastoral leadership has a different essence to it than CEO leadership. If the pastor’s role model is the CEO, then his playbook comes from the business schools and boardrooms. The pastor’s role model is not the CEO.
5. The Prophet. The biblical prophet was literally “the mouth of God,” boldly proclaiming, “Thus saith the Lord.” The history of the Church is a history of great preachers. I remember when the ideal pastor was a great pulpiteer. Many hold up the great preachers as the role model for pastors. By far, the prophet seems to be the most popular role model for pastoral ministry in America in Bible-believing, Bible-preaching churches where the pulpit is the centerpiece of church auditoriums. I would simply counter by saying that great preachers are models for preaching, but not necessarily for pastoring. Not every great preacher does pastoral work all that well because preaching is not sufficient to accomplish all that pastoring requires. As important as preaching is, I don’t believe the prophet is the preeminent role model for pastoral work.
6. The Shepherd. This is the role-model for today’s pastor.
I will take that up in my next post.