Renowned theologian Eugene Peterson reminds us in his book, The Contemplative Pastor, that what a church needs most is a pastor immersed both in God’s life and our own lives. For Peterson, the question on a pastor’s mind should be: “Who are these particular people and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?”
A daunting and humbling question, to be sure. But it got me to thinking about the massive role we have come to expect from our pastors. We want them to be active yet reserved, a visionary but realistic, an authority and yet a friend.
Pastors are human, too, and, therefore, cannot be all things to all people.
So it takes us back to Peterson’s question. Finding a good match between a people and the unique person that a certain pastor is is key.
Each pastor has a different style and approach that may work in some churches, but not in others. So it is about both a church and a potential pastor being honest about strengths and weaknesses and what is a good fit and what is not.
That is why the call process can be so deeply personal and like a wrestling match with ourselves. Both potential pastor and people need to take good, hard look at themselves and come to an understanding through prayer and divine support of who they are and what God wants them to be.
In the end, it is the calling of the Holy Spirit that guides both pastor and people to each other. And sometimes what we think is best for us in a pastor or a people is not what God has in mind. I am reminded of the words of Luke in Acts 16:6-10 about his travels with St. Paul:
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
It was there where they encountered Lydia, who opened her home and her heart to them—a good match, it turned out, but not what Paul and his fellow “church planters” had in mind.
It all goes to show that when it comes to what shepherd should go with what flock, God will make it clear in due time.