WHAT KIND OF PASTOR ARE YOU IN THE 21ST CENTURY
So . . . . what kind of pastor are you? I was on a phone call with 15 exceptional pastors of large congregations across the U.S. this week. Each had grown their church, each has been “successful” in the traditional ways of defining that – but each felt uneasy about where the church is and where things are going. It’s as if there is this “church” cliff – that everyone acknowledges but not for sure what to do. For the most part it’s addressed by “style” of church and “where & how” the church meets and “what” the church does, etc., I do not believe these are the right questions – or at least not the ones to start with. I don’t think we’re asking the right questions. If our answers don’t connect with our context – our answers won’t matter.
Though many pastors and especially those who start their churches view themselves entrepreneural – they love formulas, patterns, and recipes. Herein lies the biggest challenge for pastors in the US in the 21st century – because like never before they are going to have to think if they want to see their churches thrive. Most preachers talk about a “call to preach” – and thought of themselves early on as “preachers” – but they realize – most not all – that it’s more than just a Sunday sermon that defines the health of the church. As churches grew – many became the CEO and that isn’t all bad contrary to what some would say – it would be irresponsible not to be clear, focused, organized, and have plans when you have a mass of people – if not the pastor, someone has to make sure those functions take place. This doesn’t mean the pastor becomes a CEO, only that there are certain functions in leading a large organization that must be performed.
Preaching and organizing I believe are far easier than, as I would “Druckerize” being a “knowledge pastor” – one that understands his context, his art, his God, and knows how to respond. What does being a “knowledge” pastor – akin to a “knowledge worker” – mean for the pastor today? Someone who thinks and processes deeply and then responds.
1. A 21st century pastor must be a globalist. The world is all of our “parish” – and we must understand it. To try to show up and preach, yet know nothing of global culture, traditions, history, economics, the society we are working in, is “religion abuse” – it’s not about us doing our thing – but being the hands and heart of Jesus to people. I’ve seen it first hand, we Christians has actually done damage to the spread of the Gospel by how we connect. BUT NOT JUST IN A “GO GLOBAL” perspective – also to acknowledge and do ministry in light of the fact that the whole world is listening on the internet to you – that global migration, trends, culture is now impacting us. Our 20 somethings are being called the 1st American global generation. Like modernity, postmodernity, etc., globalization is the syncristic philosophy impacting the church everywhere. (This was in my book “Glocalization.”)
2. A 21st century pastor has to be a community developer. It was Robert Lewis who asked the question years ago, “If the church were absent from the community would it be missed?” Most of the time it wouldn’t except for the worship service for the people who attend it. I’ve seen several movies lately and all the churches do adds in the theatre. Most were all the same, “We care about you” and a selling of the Sunday event. With the “global” “justice” generation – they want to hear about a church that “cares about the city” as well. (I wrote about this in my book Realtime Connections.)
3. A 21t century pastor has to be a discipler. There are global templates of what this looks like – many of us have stumbled onto the same one. It involves three things simultaneously: interactive relationship with God, transparent connections with one another, and glocal impact or people using their jobs to serve. (This was in Transformation that I wrote about.)
4. A 21st century pastor has to be a diplomat. Anyone who works globally will have to interact with gatekeepers regardless of their rank. Protocol is no longer something just for diplomats – but for businessmen, educators, medical – and yes – the pastorate – especially the pastorate. How do you relate to others? How do you communicate? How do you put your best foot forward? (Bold as Love)
5. A 21st century pastor has to be an opportunity seizer. The greatest things that will happen in the 21st century will not be from purpose statements like the 20th century. Instead, they will come from leaves blowing everywhere from everywhere and the pastor will have to seize what comes in front of them. There are no rules for how the world is operating – we are in a new era and phase. We need to go back to the book of ACTS of the HOLY SPIRIT and stay in step with the Spirit. I am living proof of this – I would not have even known how to have planned to be involved in the things I am today – neither did my background prepare me. (Bold as Love)
6. A 21st century pastor has to be a people releaser. The story of the church a hundred years ago was the community – and those who led it were everyday people. Then before WWII right after WWI it became about the preacher. I believe it will be about the city and the world for the 21st century. WE PASTORS CAN’T DO IT ALONE – WE MUST RELEASE OUR PEOPLE. Those churches that equip and release, will be strong 20 years from now – those that don’t – may not survive. (Bold as Love)
7. A 21st century pastor has to be a communication specialist. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, all of this is crucial – however just using the tool is not enough. Do you realize the whole world is listening? It is often as if we have new media but old audiences with old ways of talking about God – the problem is new audiences are listening and for them how we come across can sound bigoted, disrespectful, arrogant, and lots of other ways we would never see. (Bold as Love)
8. A 21st century pastor has to be a bridge builder. Somehow, someway – the church became too tribal in the US over the past century. It became about “me” “my traditions” “my people” and lost its sense of being there for the world and for others. I hate it when Christians talk about how “closed” others are to the Gospel – I don’t believe it – it’s not true – it’s not my experience. We don’t even have relationships with people and yet we sentence them as “closed.” How can we do that? Last week I had lunch with some staff, lunch another day with Muslims, a cell group with hurting men in my community, supper with a Jewish rabbi and his wife in my home, and hung out with one my Baptist buddies Friday night – there is only one classification we should have for people outside our tribe “PEOPLE JESUS LOVES” –
If we would do that – I promise you, not only would our churches be healthier, but the church globally would flourish more. Not because our churches are flourishing in the US, they aren’t – but because whether we like it or not, our message is being taken around the world – and it has a lot more in it than Jesus . . . and adding anything to the message but Jesus becomes an obstacle. Much of my new book BOLD AS LOVE deals with this – you can click the icon on last weeks blog to find the book.
Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.