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Home > 2001 > March Online Only > So What Exactly Does a Pastor Do?

Every pastor has gotten the question. Sometimes it's direct: "So what exactly does a pastor do?" Other times it comes indirectly: "Would you be willing to … (fill in the blank)?"

A couple weeks ago, I heard a beautifully succinct summation of pastoring. I was worshiping with a congregation made up mostly of twenty-somethings who had not been raised in church. As the service began, the pastor introduced himself and his calling.

"My name is Tom," he said. "I'm a pastor here. It's my job to pray for you, whether you're a Christian or not, and to talk with you about Jesus, whether you're a Christian or not. That's what I do."

It's just that simple, and it's just that complicated. Because talking about Jesus leads us into all aspects of life. And when we pray for people, the deeper, unresolved parts of their lives inevitably surface. It has always been this way.

Around A.D. 400, famous North African bishop Augustine described a pastor's job: "Disturbers are to be rebuked, the low-spirited to be encouraged, the infirm to be supported, objectors confuted, the treacherous guarded against, the unskilled taught, the lazy aroused, the contentious restrained, the haughty repressed, litigants pacified, the poor relieved, the oppressed liberated, the good approved, the evil borne with, and all are to be loved."

How's that for a job description!

In fact, a vice president of human resources for Motorola once told me, "Pastors have more transferable skills than they realize." Especially supervising volunteers. "If you can describe your experience working with volunteers, you'd be surprised how quickly that gets the attention of [hiring] managers."

So, the next time someone asks you what you do, just give them the ABC's of the pastor's task. A pastor is …

ambassador, advocate, administrator,
baptizer, building usage consultant,
confidante, confronter, community builder,
discussion leader,
encourager, emotional baggage handler,
funeral companion,
grace giver, grounds inspector,
historian,
interpreter,
justice seeker,
knowledge dispenser,
latent gift discoverer,
mediator, missionary,
nurturer,
organizer, opportunity spotter,
public speaker, problem solver,
questioner, quarterback,
reviewer, Robert's Ruler,
spokesperson, spiritual director,
teacher, trainer,
unifier, utility player,
volunteer coordinator, vision caster,
wedding ceremony presider,
X-traordinary ingenuity with limited resources (like figuring out a way to use the letter X),
youth advocate, yule celebrator,
zeal stoker, zoo keeper (okay, so it just seems that way).

To read more about the simplicity and complexity of ministering in the name of Jesus, read our latest issue of Leadership at LeadershipJournal.net.

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Marshall Shelley is editor of Leadership Journal and an editorial vice-president of Christianity Today.

Related Topics:CallingCareerPastoral CarePastor's RolePrayerWork
Posted: March 14, 2001

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