Transforming Pastoral Ministry: Our Primary Calling

In Church Planting, Contemplation, Formation, Pastoral Ministry, Soul-Care, Spiritual Formation, Transforming Pastoral Leadership by BizgaineyLeave a Comment

It’s easy for a pastor to convince him or herself that our primary calling is to the role we play within the context of the congregation we serve.

It’s natural to assume that when we are with our people, we are there in a particular capacity that demands a specific role.

For example, when I am engaged in pastoral care, in the privacy of my office, I am often tempted to play the role of ‘fixer,’ or ‘advocate,’ or ‘super counselor who solves everyone’s problems with ease and grace,’ etc.

Then, when I am in a meeting with elders, deacons, or various ministry teams I sense a need to play the role of visionary, leader, team-builder, or manager.

The Danger of Distance and Despair in a Role

Once I convince myself that the primary calling of my life is about the roles I play in my life, then it becomes easy for me to distance myself from the people I serve.  As the distance grows (subtly but with certainty), the voice in my head tells me that I sit above, apart from, or over, as an ‘expert’ of sorts, the dear members of my congregation.

Such an orientation doesn’t lead me closer to my calling or make my work more fulfilling.  Rather, it disconnects me from my sense of call and prevents me from exploring the depths of my calling.  Distance and disconnect will ultimately lead to burn-out, despair, dismissal, or worse.

Indeed, if I asked you to imagine the various settings in which you live out your calling day by day, you would likely gravitate toward the role you play or the work you do.

And, while both are related to one’s call, they are not our primary calling.  Rather, they derivatives or off-shoots of the more profound calling which move us closer toward what it means to be fully human.

Image Bearing and Our Fully Human Self

When I use a phrase like being fully human, most wonder what I mean.

To be fully human is to be image bearers of the Most-High.

Lest we forget, image-bearing is the original calling.  As such, it’s one that’s accorded to all of humankind.

Recall the words of Genesis 1:26 – 27:

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness! Let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the flying creatures of the sky, over the livestock, over the whole earth, and over every crawling creature that crawls on the land.” 27 God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.

These verses identify at least two realities, in my opinion, to which “image of God” speaks with certainty.

Relational Representatives

They are:

  1. The image of God means that we’ve been created with a unique capacity to be in relationship with God.
  2. The image of God means that humans are God’s representatives on earth.

In other words, to be made in the image of God is to be created with a distinct purpose.  The purpose of enjoying and celebrating a life-giving relationship with Him.  When we settle into this image-bearing reality, we become  God-glorifying representatives (vice-regents, ambassadors, etc.) of His image in the world.

Living as Image-of-God-bearing people is, in other words, what it means to be fully human.  Anything short of this is less than human, in the biblical drama at least.

Notice also there is a sacred rhythm within the divine image.

It’s the rhythm of being-doing, being-doing, being-doing.

Distorting the Image, Disordering the Rhythms

Pause for a moment and reflect on your life and ministry.  As you reflect, are you surprised by how easily you’ve reversed this sacred being-doing rhythm?

If you’re like me, then you’ve reversed it into a disturbing doing-being rhythm

We have a problem!

It is a problem that has crept into the church and taken over the ministry.

The problem is that we’ve distorted the image of God.  When we distort his image, we disorder His life-giving rhythm of being-doing into doing-being.

Restoring the inner calling of Pastoral Ministry as one of being-doing will require practice.  Specifically, practicing a host of spiritual Rhythms that the church has left behind.

Particularly the Rhythm of Contemplating the core realities of identity and personhood. 

Contemplating Our Calling

I understand that words like contemplate and meditate tend to freak people out these days.

To contemplate means: to reflect and look on (or into) something, to gaze intently, observe, or meditate.  It also means to chew on something of great importance, etc.

Reclaiming the Ancient Truth Behind a Vital Rhythm

I offer this Rhythm of Contemplation as a life-giving way of going about our calling as ministers, servants, and pastors! This Rhythm will cause us to dig deeper into the core of the meaning of our calling.  We will then address things like why our calling matters.  Following on the heels of why, we will consider where our calling may take us.

Over time, practicing the Rhythm of Contemplation will root us in what’s true and most genuinely authentic about our inner world.

David Benner, in his excellent book, “Sacred Companions” notes the importance of inner authenticity and it’s relationship to calling when reflecting on the concept of genuine presence,

“Genuine presence involves being genuinely myself. I can be present for another person only when I dare to be present to myself. And as noted, I can be genuinely present to myself only when I can be genuinely present to God. Presence to another person is sharing this gift of my true self-in-Christ. It is not playing a “spiritual friend” role. It is simply being fully my authentic self and then setting this self aside as I seek to create a place within myself where I can receive another person.”

Being rooted in what’s genuinely authentic and most-true of us enables us to engage in life-giving ministry.

The more deeply rooted we are, the more likely it is that the roles we play will become the overflow of the relationships we have.

Disrupting to Renew!


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