This summer I’ve needed to attend to a few additions to existing structures at the cottage. There’s nothing like a needed renovation to remind someone like me that there’s theory and then there’s practice; and that’s why I usually end up holding hammer or leveler for a family member or friend who kindly (…pityingly…) agrees to help often becoming project manager. Pretty well everyone who’s tried their hand at expanding or creating better access for a living area knows that seldom do such projects “go smoothly”. It doesn’t take great powers of observation to see that those who have had success in such projects display theoretical knowledge along with applied skill and innovation combined with a healthy respect for one’s limitations. They have become practitioners because their knowledge is a product of theory plus experience.
As a recently retired pastor still active in different ministry opportunities, it’s become even clearer to me that I’m still called to be a practitioner (see previous entries). Like those in charge of tasks above-mentioned, I’ve needed the skill of applied wisdom…theory plus experience with a healthy respect for my strengths and limitations. The renovation project pastors are engaged in involves the lives of people! This has often felt to me like standing at the intersection of a job to do and the care of people called to do the job. The theoretical knowledge absolutely indispensable for this balancing act which I believe is unique to this call is a working knowledge of the written Word. But the task of the pastor also includes overseeing the healthy consumption in the pews (or equivalent) of same so it becomes food for life, not just information.
This is why I’ve become increasingly aware that such work cannot become a purely solo exercise and hence why our soul group continues to be crucial for me. There’s just too much at stake. It’s very easy to become so imbedded in the task of either the job to do or the care of those called to do it that one can forget the pastor is also part of the renovation. I’m a sheep, not only a shepherd! This where I need my brother practitioners who I have learned to love and trust help me sort out what’s to be applied where and when and, of course, to whom…sometimes I get to share deeper insight into God’s inexhaustible wisdom as it applies to another…more often it’s about what applies directly to me! All of this is priority shaping, I find.
Why should the actual work of pastor be different than any other practitioner? Yes, like most things in life, theoretical knowledge is not enough if it’s to survive the application test….let alone eventually to thrive in it. But what I’m still learning is that my call as pastor doesn’t exempt me from being the product of good news, not just enabler of it. This is indeed good if not constantly sobering. The medicine of the Gospel which shines its healing beam on the Church and world also exposes areas of yet to be transformed darkness and brokenness in me. To work and serve well, with joy I might add ( …this really can be a lot of fun…), this practitioner needs wisdom applied personally in relationship with others likewise called.
Yes, simple but profound truth….pastors need pastors!!