Monday, June 9, 2008

Pastor, Minister, Reverenrd, Priest or Clergy

Pastor: a spiritual overseer; especially a clergyman serving a local church or parish
Minister: one officiating or assisting the officiant in church worship
Reverend: of or relating to the clergy
one authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, an agent between humans and God
Clergy: a group ordained to perform pastoral or sacerdotal functions in a Christian church

According to Merriam Webster On-Line, these are the definitions of words we so often use interchangeably. However, as I reflect on these titles, only one appears to be about a person who cares deeply for the spiritual health of others--and that is Pastor. Can one be called to be a minister or priest without being called to pastor? Is being clergy simply about performing functions? Officiating? Being authorized to perform rites of religion? Authorized by whom? By God? Or by man? Doesn't scripture tell us that God equips the called? Moses certainly didn't have his resume in order, and yet God called him to do great things.

What is it we're looking for in clergy today? Are we looking for church CEO's? Managers who ensure duties are performed as assigned? Financial officers who ensure the books are in order? Dynamic speakers who entertain? In my denomination, we have a person who's title in our conference is Director of Pastoral Excellence. What makes an excellent pastor?
How is that measured? Who decides?

It seems to me that the criteria for an excellent pastor might be different than the criteria for an excellent minister. And, while I believe we need excellent ministers, I believe the world is longing for--even aching for, excellent pastors. We're looking for guides who are living the way of Jesus. We long for glimpses of those who truly clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience...those who bear with one another, forgive each other...above all those who are clothed in love. It's not fair to expect more of one human being over another, and yet...we do.