A few weeks ago at the Atlanta Emergent Cohort, we discussed the changing role of the pastor, and what a possible “emerging role” of a pastor would be. We had folks from different denominational backgrounds and that added to some of the richness of the discussion. I’ll admit that I went into the conversation hoping to find the “perfect” Emergent metaphor for the role of the pastor. However, that simply doesn’t work – and is very un-emergent.
Some of the metaphors that we brought to the conversation both from our experiences and our denominational perspectives are listed below:
- Plurality of Elders
- Poet Gardener: Someone who can connect with someone’s imagination – someone who will sow and work with something – to help grow it
- Fellow Sojourner: Journeying together in the Kingdom of God – Westerhoff
- Fosterer of Imagination – Helping others to live the re-imagined life – encouraging divine imagination
- Personal Trainer
Of all of these – I am most attracted to the Pastor as Poet/Gardener and as one who helps to Foster Imagination. However, a Korean friend who was there reminded us that those metaphors simply wouldn’t work in his Korean church culture. With the drive for success and competitive nature found in the Korean culture, the pastor would be a teacher, an educated guide – not a “gardener” or one who “imagines.” That only helped me to remember the cultural implications of context, and how that affects even what the role of the pastor might be.
So, who is the pastor? In the Presbyterian tradition, the pastor is the educated one – the one with the seminary education. The pastor knows Greek and Hebrew (supposedly) and is the one who can bring the Word of God to the congregation. The pastor is really an educator. It’s interesting to think about metaphors for the pastor – and to see how many of them have power imbalances inherent within them. For example, even the pastor viewed as Shepherd, one who cares for and gives guidance to the congregation makes the pastor the leader, the one who guides and protects the “sheep” – and clearly separates the pastor from the congregation – for the Shepherd is surely not a sheep.
What metaphor for pastor speaks to you? Have you found one that you think works?