Today’s Pastors

Eugene Peterson is probably best known for translating a paraphrase of the Bible called “The Message.” What is perhaps not as well known is that he pastored a church for 29 years, and that he has now written a memoir titled The Pastor. Here’s a passage that occurs early on that I found rather provocative:

Men and women who are pastors in America today find that they have entered into a way of life that is in ruins. The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans. Any kind of continuity with pastors in times past is virtually nonexistent.

The Pastor and Me

Pastors and Blogging

In the past, some have wondered why I, as a pastor, blog.  This post is an attempt to answer that question.   The reasons are many, but allow me to list a few.

1. Over the almost four years I have blogged, my blogs have been viewed over 300,000 times.  Blogging allows me to reach a wide range of people, many of whom never attend church.  Some may come to read a personal reflection, a funny post, a movie review, or to view a photograph, but more than a few of these visitors stick around and read some of my writings on faith as well.  Blogging allows me to share my faith.

2. Besides being a committed follower of Jesus, I am a person with a wide range of interests and hobbies.  I am an amatuer photographer and potter.  I am also a voracious reader, lover of all types of music, and an avid film buff.  Blogging allows me to share my interests with others.  And very often I am able to find connections between these more cultural interestd and my own faith.  I am reminded of a phrase John Wesley used:  “plundering the Egyptians.” As Rich Tuttle writes on his blog (and I hope he doesn’t mind my pasting most of his post here:

One of the coolest concepts in Methodism is “plundering the Egyptians.”

The day Moses set the Israelites free, an ironic twist took place. The Israelites had the audacity to ask the Egyptians for jewelry and clothing…and the Egyptians obliged (Exodus 12:35-36). The last part of verse 36 is great: “so they (the Israelites) plundered the Egyptians.”

The father of Methodism, John Wesley, used this phrase as way to express the importance of using the best of what culture has to offer to grow in knowledge and faith. Wesley made himself aware of current events, recent scholarship, scientific discovery, medical breakthroughs, new technology and pop culture by reading, listening and being available. He thought it was essential to know what was going on around him so that he could grow in knowledge of God’s truth. Scripture was always primary and essential for Wesley and that’s why he was not afraid of “contamination” by the cultural “texts” in which he engagned. Wesley gleaned everything he could from the best of the culture around him because he believed God could speak in more than one way. Wesley “plundered the Egyptians” without fear, because he did not have to question the source of ultimate and timeless truth.

As a Methodist, I will proudly carry on Wesley’s practice of “plundering the Egyptians,” not just for the sake of relevance, but because I believe God can and does speak through the cultural “texts” of today.

3.  During my time blogging I have met many wonderful people and have developed more than a few friendships that would have never been possible without this particular form of communication.  While my friends and I may disagree on various issues and even faith (and who has friends that see eye to ey with them anyway),  my blog has allowed us to dialogue with one another and develop a sense of comaraderie that I value greatly.

Now I realize that not every visitor to my blogs will appreciate everything I write or post.  But as a Christian and a blogger, I have a few guidelines for myself.

  • Never break confidentiality when writing a post.  Nothiing ever told to me in confidence will ever be shared on my blogs.
  • I will try and expect any commenters on my blog to try to maintain a civil and courteous level of discourse.  This is especially true when dealing with more controversial issues.  While we may not agree on everything, we can certainly be civil in our disagreements.
  • While my blog reflects who I am in a larger context (after all it is about faith, culture, technology, photography and life), I always hope that my own faith in Christ is ultimately is visible in what I write.  This is not to say that every post will be religious in nature, but that when taken as a whole, it will be apparant that my blogs are written by someone with a deep commitment to my faith in Jesus.

So there you have it.  A few reasons why I blog and some guidelines for my own blogging.

To everyone who visits this blog, or one of my other blogs, I say “Welcome, and I hope you will find something of value here . . . perhaps something to deepen your own faith, or something to make you ponder an issue or concern, or maybe a little something to make you smile. ”


My Advice to Pastors – New and Old

A post by Allan Bevere (link is below) back in May got me to thinking about what I wisdom I would impart to my fellow pastors if asked.  Now please note . . . I haven’t mastered all of these suggestions myself, but I am working on them.  I also think these would be especially helpful for those just entering the pastoral ministry.

    1. Have a daily personal prayer and devotional time – usually best the first thing in the morning before the day’s activities take over.
    2. Make sure you have adequate time for sermon and worship service preparation (at least 10-15 hours a week).  For me this means looking at the texts for the following week sometime on Sunday after that week’s worship services are completed.  I do my research through commentary reading, Internet study and elsewhere all during the week, and usually write my sermon out on Saturdays.  I would love to do the writing earlier, but I have not developed the discipline to achieve this yet.
    3. Take a day off, and two if you can, on a weekly basis – commitment to family time is a must.  Children in particular should not feel neglected because of a pastor parent’s busy church schedule.  One of my pet peeves in the United Methodist system is the appointment of pastors with children (particularly younger ones) to the position of District Superintendent (D.S.).  A D.S. is always busy, and during certain times of the year (such as charge conference or appointment seasons) a night off is all but impossible, let alone a full day.
    4. Cultivate a hobby or hobbies, particularly one that can impart a sense of accomplishment – for me this includes blogging, pottery making, and photography.  When I have finished a project in one of my hobbies, I can step back and actually see some viable results.  In ministry, this is often not the case.
    5. Take your annual vacation time (even if you do not go anywhere), with at least 4-6 Sundays off during the year to allow for recharging of the preaching batteries.
    6. Regularly visit your church’s homebound or shut-in members – nothing will serve a pastor better than spending time these congregation members.  This will earn a pastor respect from her or his regular church members, as well as allow the pastor to learn more about what it means to have a servant’s heart.  In addition, a pastor is likely to learn much about a church’s history and dynamics though such visitation.
    7. Read a lot – schedule some regular reading time in your weekly calendar if you must,  But don’t just read church-related books and publications, such as biblical studies, theology, and pastoral ministry; but also read magazines and books related more to today’s culture.  I try to read the following magazines regularly:  Harpers, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker.  I also read The Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, and my local paper on a regular basis (even though the local paper is not very good at all)
    8. Hold regular (at least monthly) meetings (formal or informal) with the chairpersons of the leading committees/work teams on the local church.
    9. Meet weekly or at least biweekly with a trusted colleague in ministry.  In such meetings you can share each other’s joys and concerns.  You can gripe, if you need to.  And you can hold each other accountable to the tasks of ministry and to following Jesus.
    10. Develop a vital teaching ministry.  It never ceases to amaze me how many pastors do not teach in their churches.  While it may be difficult and not even desirable to teach a Sunday School class (given the busy schedule most pastors already have on Sunday mornings), I think it is criminal for pastors not to lead at least one weekly Bible study or discussion group.  It is in these settings that pastors can more readily impart some of the knowledge that have garnered through their studies, and these small group settings are perfect for pastors to cultivate closer relationships with their church members.

How about you other pastors out there?  Do you have any advice to offer your colleagues, myself included?

Ten Things Pastors Should Not Neglect (In No Particular Order) was written by Allan R. Bevere on Thursday, 29 May 2008.